weekend free-for-all – February 20-21, 2016

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

My recommendation of the week is a movie rather than a book: People Places Things, starring Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords (which can be this week’s second recommendation, in fact). Just quiet, funny, and wonderful.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 831 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    Not sure if this qualifies as a mid-life crisis, but for people in their late 30s/early 40s who aren’t super rich, how do you balance the desire to travel and do fun (not always free) things with the desire to also be fiscally responsible—paying your bills on time and saving for retirement? Sometimes I feel I have a good sense of how to balance it, and other times I think I’m erring too much on one side or the other. What’s been helpful to you (and please don’t point me to any financial guru websites—I’d prefer personal anecdotes and tips to “Just follow this person”)?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Haru*

      Not sure how helpful this would be. For me, I make a list of all the fun things I want to do and start from the cheapest to most costly activity. Also, credit card churning.

    2. sarakg*

      One thing that’s really been helpful is having a budget and feeling more in control of my finances and where my money goes. I use YNAB but I don’t think it’s really the system that matters, as long as it works for you.

      The other thing is having friends in the same boat. For example, we’re all ‘planners’ so it’s easier in my budget to put aside $15/paycheck towards something that’s in a few months, but then also still putting money into my ‘random’ category for impromptu adventures. Also with having friends in the same situation, we do lots of games nights and things like that. We’ll even do pizza potluck – one friend makes the dough and then everyone brings whatever they have around the house that might work on pizza. Usually, we manage a really delicious dinner and no one has to spend any extra money.

    3. danr*

      We have a budget and a cash allowance each week. It’s our gas money, odds and ends and food money. Leftover cash goes into the “extras” pot. We use it for dinners out, spending money on vacations, going out to the movies, etc. Having the budget and allowances means that we’re not hitting the atms all the time and letting the money just sit in the bank. We track our spending and savings. As spending goes down, the savings go up. It’s an incentive to watch this on spreadsheets. Also, be sure to put the maximum into IRAs and as much as you can in your 401k. At least match your company’s contribution. It’s free money and it’s not taxed. We also banked our tax refunds and any bonuses.

    4. Artemesia*

      We prioritized travel and I had a special account I used. I had a contract where I did extra work and consulting work on top of my salary and the checks from those things went into the travel account. We didn’t buy fancy furniture, didn’t eat out much, didn’t buy a lot of clothes, didn’t go for name brand athletic shoes and such. We were able to travel every year doing this.

      Retirement came off the top. That money went automatically into a 403b account and my husband had an IRA. I do wish we had put more of his money into retirement. We are good now — but it would be nice to have a bit more and we could have done that.

      I’d save retirement first and automatically, be sure you have an emergency fund of several thousand dollars and then save up specifically for travel. It is easier to forego spendy things when you have a target for the money.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        OK, I just retired (yay!) and made it to the other side. Here is what worked for me. This was a lifetime of work, (35 years) not done in a day.
        First things first – learn the difference between wants and needs. Needs are things that keep you alive and keep you employed. Everything else is a want. There are plenty of studies showing that poor savers classified more things as “needs” than good savers.
        Second thing – learn the beauty of deferred pleasure. Take joy in working toward your goals as much as hitting them. It keeps you going when you want to give up.
        Directed savings is the way to go.
        Direct money toward retirement. You can’ get a loan for retirement so this is critical! Use the rest for bills. If you have to lower your lifestyle to do it, then do it! I’ve lived with multiple roommates, only bought used vehicles (our mass transit stinks), eat in, etc. Find free things to do for experiences. Avoid drugs and alcohol – they’re expensive and suck at your savings faster than an tornado.
        Next, use directed savings to create an emergency savings account. Otherwise you’ll end up putting things on a credit card which means you’ll pay for it twice – once for the incident and once for interest.
        Use directed savings toward your regular savings account. That way you’ll have the money to buy items when they go on sale. I call it targeted purchase – you already were going to buy it but now it is on sale! Jump!
        Pay down debt as quickly as possible using the debt snowball. Pay minimum on all but the highest interest debt. On the highest interest debt pay interest AND extra toward principal. Once that debt is paid off, use that money and add it to the next debt until everything is paid down. This is a long term goal that will take several years. You can’t believe the freedom that comes with that last payment!
        Always have medical insurance. Too many people go bankrupt due to unseen medical.
        Use directed savings for taxes, auto, etc. It’s a lot harder to spend it if it’s already in a directed account.
        Use directed savings to create a travel account. This is your guilt-free mad money toward travel.
        Consider cheaper travel – sign up for deals and be willing to go to small local places. Travel is about new experiences and you can get them closer to home as much as overseas. It’s OK to go overseas too (encouraged) but remember that it usually is cheaper to explore near home.
        Reward yourself when you hit savings goals. Pay down a debt in the debt snowball? Give yourself a “gift” by putting some money in your travel account. Or have a nice dinner. Whatever way you want to celebrate so you don’t feel stifled.
        Always remember that what you do in your 20’s and 30’s will affect your 40’s and 50’s. I was really surprised by how much.
        One thing I really found – a frugal lifestyle pays off your entire life. You gain resilience in your savings, you are less worried about outliving your retirement, and you have money to splurge when you really want to.
        I already said it but will say it again – this is a long term multi-year commitment.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, the way you handle your 20s and 30s impacts your next two decades and beyond- no doubt in my mind. I don’t understand why they don’t teach this in schools.

          Annndd, it will never hurt you to be frugal. Bingo. Watching the pennies has saved my butt big time. It would take too long to explain. But if I had not been so watchful, I would have been living in a box on the street somewhere by now. Life constantly blindsides us and those blindsides cost bucks. Big bucks.

        2. NDQ*

          Engineer Girl,
          Congrats on your retirement! My plan is to retire early, but it’s still several years away. Fortunately, I do love my job, so I’m not anxious to get out. In the meantime, I am maxing out as many retirement accounts I can and buying assets. It has become my hobby — saving and investing, lowering taxes, and lowering my AGI as much as possible. The crazy part is, I still have cash for travel so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any of the fun.
          What are your retirement plans?

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Well I just hiked the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu, went down into the Amazonian basin research center to look at Macaws, and finished a cruise through the Galápagos. I’m also remodeling my house.

    5. NicoleK*

      I totally get your struggle. For me, what worked was to prioritize my wants/needs. I love traveling and it’s a need for me versus a want. So I give myself permission to take a trip a year (nothing extravagant). To afford the trip, I cut costs in other areas (I don’t smoke/drink, don’t wear makeup, don’t have expensive taste in clothes, I pack a lunch to work, and etc). I’ve tried being thrifty 24/7/365 but it made me miserable.

    6. fposte*

      If you don’t already, absolutely have a budget. That way you can define “enough” for various categories, including travel and fun, rather than leaving them as leftovers.

      I would also recommend running some crude numbers to start thinking about a retirement target: how much do you think you’re likely to get in Social Security, how much do you spend each year now, and what’s the difference? How much do you need to save to have that difference every year in retirement? A retirement calculator like firecalc dot com or cfiresim dot com can really help you sort this out. That doesn’t mean you have to pinch every penny now to live like a queen when you’re seventy–it just gives you an idea of what your options are.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I think that it’s a good idea to have a little stash of “the heck with it” money that you use for play.

      The way my husband and I traveled was by leaching –er, visiting family. Seriously though, we did a lot of travel that way. Even if we paid for their tourist-y stuff and bought a few meals out, it was still cheaper than a motel and a heck of a lot friendlier.

      Initially we started out staying at Bed and Breakfasts. That went well but I chose places that had a substantial breakfast, not just a prepackaged danish. For lunch we would stop at a grocery store. So the only “frivolous” meal expense was dinner. A couple times we went during the off season and we had the opportunity to upgrade to the best room for a mere $20. That was nice. Yeah, off season travel really reduces costs. Yes, some places are closed but that just means the trip costs less because I don’t lose money at those places.

      I have also done a mix, where I met family at a BnB half way between our homes. That is nice because no one is struggling to fix meals three times a day.

    8. StudentPilot*

      We do a “once in a lifetime trip” every other year or so – like 2015 it was Botswana and Zimbabwe, next year will be Antarctica. The other years, we do something closer to home…or just cheaper, so this summer we’re going to Eastern Europe (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia.) I try to balance the big crazy adventures with low-key travel.

      And someone else mentioned credit card churning – absolutely. We also primary use a credit card that gives us travel dollars (something like 2% of all we spend on the card is converted into dollars that we can use to pay off travel costs charged to the card.) We’ve been able to take off about $2000 a year from travel costs.

      We try to spread out the trip spending – so for example we just bought our tickets for our summer trip, this month, and we’ll pay it off when the bill is due so we don’t have to pay interest. Then maybe in April we’ll book a couple of hotel rooms. Spreading out the payments like that means we don’t pay interest ever (so long as we pay the bill off in full) and it spreads out the hefty costs over several pay cheques.

      When we travel, we try to stay at hostels/Air B&B (but private rooms at hostels) to save a bit, and we try to self-cater breakfast and lunch. (We still splurge at least once a trip and stay somewhere nice, but we try to balance things)

      At home, we also use lots of point cards – Airmiles, PC points at Loblaws, Shopper’s points, and then redeem when we can to save money on groceries. For other Canucks, there’s also an app – Checkout 51 – where you can ‘earn’ money back on items that they have featured. (I have no idea if there’s an American version…)

      1. Liana*

        I totally second the whole “spread out the expenses” part. I’m going to Iceland in a month and I bought my plane tickets way in advance, so they are A) cheaper (like, significantly cheaper), and B) I had plenty of time to pay off the ticket so by the time I actually go on the trip, I’m not carrying any leftover balance.

        1. StudentPilot*

          Ooooh have fun in Iceland! One of my favourite countries. If you get up north, the Myvatn Nature Baths is less busy than the Blue Lagoon (although, BL is still great and worth a visit).

    9. New Math*

      Here’s an odd assortment of tips from someone 50+:

      #1: Try to eliminate waste. You can save a lot of money by eliminating wasteful habits. Combine errands into one trip to save fuel. Buy economy size when it makes sense, but not when you are going to end up throwing half the product away. Don’t buy two when one will do. Protect your assets so you don’t have to pay for repairs or replacements (wash your car to preserve the paint, vacuum regularly to preserve your carpets, keep plastic garden furniture out of the sun when not in use, don’t wear your favorite jeans to garden in or your favorite white top to eat spaghetti, etc.). When something breaks, try to repair it instead of replacing it.

      #2: Spend only when you are getting value for money. That $10K vacation to Australia may give you a lifetime of memories where a $1000 trip to Las Vegas will yield fuzzy memories of too many martinis. That one Starbucks you drink each week is a treat, but if you buy one every day, maybe you stop really tasting it and it is just expensive coffee. A $10K 8-year-old luxury car might seem like a good deal, till you have to insure it or pay for repairs. If you are having trouble estimating value, sometimes it helps to amortize the cost over the life of the item. For example, $100 for a pair of jeans is a lot, but if you expect to wear them for 5 years, that’s $20 per year, which is pretty good value.

      #3: Don’t buy it if you are talking yourself into it. Maybe this is just me, but if I talk myself into buying a piece of clothing, a purse, whatever, I usually don’t end up loving it, and I get rid of it soon after.

      #4: Set annual savings goals, and enjoy the feeling of success as you meet or surpass them. Allow yourself to spend guilt-free as long as you are on target with your savings. The average net worth for 45-year-olds is about $85K, and only $25K if you don’t count the equity in their house (US Census). If you want to maintain your current standard of living into retirement, at age 45, you should have about 3.5 times your salary saved. Clearly most of us are not saving enough for the future.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What’s worked really well for us is separate savings accounts and automatic recurring transfers, so we don’t feel like we have as much as we do. For example, when we paid off our car loans, we opened a “New Car Fund”, and automatically put $350 a month into that, and now we have enough to buy a new car outright. Our payment was about $370, so we also felt like we gave ourselves a little more room in our budget, which makes for a nice incentive. When we paid off a home equity loan, we created a “Home improvement/vacation fund”, and we save for larger projects or trips that way. We also upped our retirement savings every time we got a raise, and once we maxed them out, we started a charitable giving savings account so that now we have a donation “budget” to draw from. Note that those last two will help with your taxes — you actually only need to reduce your take home pay by around $700 to save or donate $1,000.

    11. Anonymous Educator*

      Thanks, everyone, for the tips. I’ll keep tabs on this, too, for any later responses. It’s great to hear what’s worked for people. Lots to consider…

    12. curious*

      When I felt swallowed up by Debt, I tried to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan (save 1K (I changed this against his recommendation to make it 2K to better fit my budget and did not stop retirement contributions as he recommends). I found it motivating for a while, but my income increased enough that I no longer felt so helpless with debt. Around this time, I created a bunch of savings accounts-one for my car fund (saving for a new car, insurance and repairs for old one), a vacation fund, a laptop fund, a personal improvement fund for classes and the like, an emergency fund (okay, many small emergency funds-a number of CDs that expire at different times as well as a a small cash EF and a savings account EF, as well as my roth which I consider both a last-chance EF but mostly retirement savings as it is invested aggressively). This has worked well for me. Even today, before I can get a chance to spend the money, most of it automatically goes to 5+ other accounts after my direct deposit hits.

      I liked Elizabeth Warren’s plan (she and her daughter wrote a book recommending a 50-20-30 budget. (For after-tax income, spend 50 on needs, 20 on savings, and 30 on wants.) I changed this so 50-25-25 and used it as pretty decent guideline. Though my real allocation now might be 45 needs/30 savings/25 fun now as I’m in a lower COL place now.

      Travel-I play the credit card game to earn miles (probably not the best bet, though: people spend more money 15-20% playing with plastic than cash.) I follow travel deals by scanning headlines on boardingarea.com and the “fare deals” forum on flyertalk. I have deal alerts for my desired cities set up to email me for sales on airfarewatchdog.com, but I think google flights might also do that now.

      I drive a 2007 car. I have never had a new one and I live in a place where you cannot really get by without one. I choose to drive an older car with cheaper insurance and travel more than have a new one. I use the library. I make decent money but buy used books. I do not buy expensive clothes. My last new phone cost less than $200 -only recently upgraded from a flip phone I had for several years. Buy the older models. I have a prepaid plan, much cheaper than postpaid. In my last trip to Europe, I “splurged” by getting the tiny room with a bathroom instead of the tiny room with a bathroom down the hall. Finding deals can be part of the fun.

      Studies show that happiness can be bought, but only if you spend the money on experiences instead of stuff. Keep that in mind while shopping.

    13. Florida*

      I’m right where you are. Some things I do are:
      – put money into savings before I pay other bills. I can always take it out later, but I make a habit of saving. Sometimes I have to take it out more frequently than I want to, but I know I’m going to be thoughtful about what I’m buying if I put it in savings initially.
      – if a friend wants to go out to eat, sometimes I’ll say, “Let’s go someplace cheap.” Have a few cheap restaurants in mind.
      – if I see something at the store and it’s on sale, I consciously ask myself, “Am I buying this because I need (want is OK too) it? Or am I buying it because it’s on sale?” Once I ask myself that, I frequently decide not to by it.
      – I buy store brand of sooo many things. (vitamins, OTC meds, bleach, cotton balls, etc.)
      – I don’t buy lotto tickets.

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Exactly. I enjoy shopping, but set myself a few limits when I do. Also, I’ve begun to enjoy thrift shopping. My recent find was a $200 jacket for $6. Hardly any wear, classic style. When I could, I made double student lan payments.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          My family still does hand-me-downs. Both of my aunts are very fashionable, and I’m around their size in tops. If either of them decides to update their wardrobes, they offer me the stuff that went out of rotation but still looks good. Kenneth Cole, Banana Republic, White House Black Market; I feel fabulous for free.

    14. Menacia*

      I have always enjoyed vacations the most when I saved up for them and paid them off instead of having the debt hanging around afterward. Make sure if you have credit cards that you get the ones where you earn interest on *every* purchase. Have that rainy day fund in a place where it’s accessible, but not easily accessible so you aren’t temped to use it. Depending on whether or not you have a 401K, make sure you are putting in at least what your company matches up to (if they match).

      Look at your career, can you be doing more (earning certifications, taking courses, changing jobs) to earn more money? I am 50, and working toward my Bachelor’s degree (10 more courses!), because even though I have a good job, with a stable company, a 401K, a pension and diversified investments, nothing is guaranteed so it’s best to be prepared.

      It’s great that you are thinking about this, many people don’t then it’s too late. I know for myself I want to be able to really enjoy my retirement, so if I have make some sacrifices now, it will be worth it.

      1. Menacia*

        Extra tip, I’ve had success using Clark Howard’s website to find money saving ideas all in one place.


    15. Dan*

      Be honest with yourself, first and foremost. Budgets you can’t stick to aren’t budgets. If you really aren’t going to stick to it, don’t bother pretending you will, that’s just setting yourself up for failure.

      Be honest about your goals.

      I lost my job and split from my wife within four months of each other in 2013
      . I had $19k in credit card debt at the beginning of 2014 when I started my current job. I had to think about a debt payoff plan and balance that with my desire to travel the world.

      I decided that a 3 year repayment plan (flipping 0% Apr offers) was manageable, reasonable, and would allow me my ability to have fun.

      Since I took on that debt, I’ve taken three month long trips to various places around the world. It looks like I’ll be meeting my payoff goal at the end of this year. Would Dave Ramsey advise this? Hell no, but it works for *me*.

      If your budget is such that you have no realistic way of paying your bills on time, that’s an entirely different situation. You’re probably on the brink of disaster and really need to consider your contingency plans.

    16. ginger ale for all*

      One thing that I have done is that I enter a lot of contests to win free books. I love being in the first wave of fans to get my favorite authors latest or discovering new writers but I can’t afford that lifestyle choice. Last year I won around twenty new books and that kept my book budget tamed and expanded my author and genre base. It also got my lottery ticket buying down to less than five dollars a year (from about twenty a year, no great shakes but the little things add up). And I have also won trips, a computer, restaurant meals, event tickets, etc so throw your hat in the ring if you trust the company that is running the contests.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        I ended that too soon. If you want something but don’t need it, just think of other ways you might be able to get it. Saving up is a guaranteed way to get it but there is also unexpected ways to do things as well. I heard about a group of students who all chipped in on getting one textbook for their class and they then shared it at the library during study sessions, scanning important parts and letting a different one take it home for the night. Cutting costs by utilizing a shared object will also pad your wallet. I only get a haircut twice a year with a low maintenance style (all one length, from the shoulders when it is fresh cut, past my shoulders when it isn’t).

      2. Artemesia*

        To piggyback. The library is your friend. I read a lot and have a Nook reader and can download ebook from my library onto my reader from anywhere in the world. The cost of a book in English in Europe is quite high and carrying a suitcase full of books a drag; being able to spend 3 mos traveling and be able to download a couple of dozen books for free saves huge amounts of money. And unlike hard copy books, they return themselves so you don’t acquire library fines.

        Oh and the 3 mos of travel is what we can do because we relentless saved for retirement for 45 years.

    17. YawningDodo*

      This last year I switched to an online bank that comes with a website and app where you can do some pretty thorough tracking of your expenses. The bank’s software lets you define goals and tell it whether to set the money aside little by little or put it in as a lump sum, and any purchase you make using the bank’s debit card can be tagged (so for instance I can click a tag I made for a convention I attend every year and see a weekly chart of how much I spent on registration, making a costume, and buying concessions and souvenirs), plus it makes a pretty good guess at the type of purchase even if you don’t tag it (it’ll automatically mark things like groceries, fast food, etc.).

      It’s been a game changer for me. Whenever my paycheck comes in I make sure I have money set aside for rent and my short-term emergency savings and so forth, and it’ll tell me what the remaining “safe to spend” balance is. I’m making an effort to run paycheck to paycheck; at the end of each pay period whatever I have left over before the next deposit gets distributed among my goals, whether that means bulking up my emergency savings or getting further along in saving toward a major trip. All of those goals automatically pull small amounts of money from my “safe to spend” on a daily basis, but it’s really satisfying when I find I have enough extra money to max out a goal ahead of schedule. It takes some of the stress out of trip planning, too, to know that I’ve got it all saved before I even start making reservations.

      The one frustration I have with the whole system is that it makes it difficult to do any credit card churning. I’ve got a card with decent cash back, but whenever I use my credit card it’s very hard to keep track of it. I’ve been moving toward only using the credit card for large purchases; I’d get more cash back if I used it for everything, but being able to pull up charts that show exactly where my money’s been going is overall more valuable to me (my spending shot up when I first got the credit card, which is of course the reason they give cash back). I’m trying to wean off the credit card except when I’m paying $100 or more in one go, because then it’s not quite so difficult to go in and transfer payment for individual charges and tag them in my bank software.

    18. matcha123*

      Thanks for this question.
      I’m not in my late-30s, but it’s only a matter of time.

      I noticed that a lot of the replies use “us,” which I assume means they live with a partner. I feel like having someone to live with helps a lot. I’ve only lived with my family or alone, and I thought that living alone would give me more freedom, but I’m not saving anything.
      I’ve spent so much of my life being frugal, sacrificing, scrimping, that now I find that my decision making ability and mental heath take a huge hit when I have to concentrate on saving money. It’s a vicious cycle of trying to save money, but then spending money because “if I don’t buy this now, I will never get this opportunity again.” ,_,

      1. NDQ*

        When you’re young, it is so difficult to think about traditional retirement because it feels so far away. But what if you thought about it differently? There is a sub-culture of people working regular jobs but who plan to retire early, even in their 30s. The idea is that they don’t necessarily have to quit their job, but they will have the option if they choose.

        There is also the possibility for everyone that they may not get the choice of retiring at the traditional mid 60s, but that an injury or illness will hit and they will not be able to work. Then what? Many of us aren’t willing to rely on the government or an employer to take care of us. We want to have options, make our own decisions and have the real security that money provides.

        Living alone gives you the opportunity to make your own decisions and not have to find agreement with another person who may or may not share you own goals. Money creates rifts in lots of relationships. Enjoy this stage of your life. Getting control of your money now will make you a better partner when you are in a relationship. You will also make better choices in selecting a mate.


    19. Retiree57*

      Some things that worked for me:

      -don’t have children, (or only as many as you can easily afford, and then postpone extreme travel til after they are grown, or do camping and other less expensive family trips in the meantime)

      -budget/set spending limits on travel that are realistic (so you don’t slide too far in that direction)

      -travel deals/opportunities, e.g. Use vacation days to extend time at a work trip destination, accept invitations e.g. Going in on a shore house share, staying with friends or family for free (budget for being a good guest, host gifts or taking them out to dinner), stay cations, mission trips

      -if you can’t afford to travel where or as you wish now, allow yourself to fantasize/anticipate enthusiastically without getting too bogged down in your realistic prospects for now. Read books, watch movies set in your destination, learn a language or some recipes, have fun with looking forward to going. Focus on the hope that you will travel rather than despair that you might not be able to. Surprising things can happen if you live long enough.

      1. Windchime*

        Yes, I noticed that Eve had time to stop and do a little personal grooming partway through the battle. Very civilized. Sometimes I wish I had another cat to keep mine company. He seems perfectly content by himself, but he does spend time trying to stalk and chase me and I think if he had another cat to play with, he might be happier. He does have a little dog that’s his size who comes to play once in awhile, but they have different Love Languages so it’s been a long learning curve for them to learn to play together.

  2. Doriana Gray*

    I’ve spoken about this here before, and while the subject is relationship focused and definitely mental health related (thus I think it belongs here), it can also be a work situation, so if I need to move this, Alison, please let me know.

    So I had a thing for someone who works at the same company I do (different division), and he recently got married. I knew it was coming, but I was crushed nonetheless. Anyway, in the year plus time between popping the question to his now wife and their wedding, I cut off all interaction with this person and even went out of my way to avoid situations/events where I might run into him (which is difficult when you often wind up in the same training classes).

    So I haven’t seen him in person for a couple of months, and I was feeling quite good about that. I felt like I was finally getting a handle on my emotions when it came to him and that when I finally was confronted with him again, I’d be okay to face him and might even be able to exchange pleasantries.

    Then I saw him in Starbucks Thursday morning and had a full on panic attack. I haven’t had one in years, and it was so bad I couldn’t breathe, I was about to be sick, and I couldn’t stop shaking. One look from this man and I almost lost my shit – I was so angry with myself because I should have been over this already.

    I realize now that I need to go back to therapy to work this out with a neutral third party. I can’t keep going like this, not when we work in the same place and have mutual work friends – I’m bound to have an “episode,” and people who don’t know about my mental health problems will soon figure it out (as will he) and that could severely harm my reputation in the workplace. I already feel weird about how I’ve been behaving towards him because he was never anything but nice to me, and yet I keep hitting him with the cold shoulder when I do see him. He probably thinks I’m an asshole, and I can’t have him thinking that because he may spread that around. Given that his father’s the CFO of our parent company, getting on his bad side probably isn’t the best idea if I want to move up here.

    I’ll start looking for therapists in my city Monday, but in the meantime, I really need some advice from fellow anxiety/panic disorder sufferers – how in the world do you pull yourself back from the brink in the midst of an episode? I was completely useless the rest of the day, my mind was so scattered and unfocused.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t have anxiety myself, but my sister does – in fact, as some readers on here know, she actually came back from a six-week-stay at the hospital where she dealt with her mental health issues last week. And she told me in detail about what she learned to do when she has a panic attack:

      It’s the concept of “inner awareness” (I’m translating this from my mothertongue, I have no idea if there’s an actual medical term for it in English) and means that she has to try and focus really hard on her body. She will be standing very still and concentrate on feeling her legs, then her feet, then her toes (or whatever, it can be any bodypart), really getting to feel the muscles and especially the bones. She says it works really well because it’s grounding, takes her mind from the (object of the) panic, and puts her focus on herself.

      I don’t know if that’s any helpful to you, especially since it’s not a first-hand experience and I don’t know how well this can actually be done without professional guidance but she says it has helped her a ton and lessened the intensity of her attacks considerably.

      I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this and wish you all the best. ((jedi hugs if you want))

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Thank you for the suggestion (and the Jedi hugs). I’ll try the whole being aware of my body thing because when it was happening, I felt completely out of control, and I hate that feeling.

      2. North*

        This is what has worked for me in the past. Really, really focusing on how I’m grounded and standing and still there and just fine. Sometimes I pick something to look at. I also give myself permission to be a totally uncommitted conversation partner, if it’s happening while talking to someone.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I did stare out of the window and tried to focus on a building across the street, all the while attempting to take calming breaths (it didn’t work), but since I was still intensely aware the object of my attack was standing only about ten feet away from me, it was hard to focus. I’ll try again though if it happens again.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Calming breaths are a learned thing. It does not go well right away. Double check your technique:

            Breath in through your nostrils with your mouth closed.
            Put your hand over your lower rib area. Your hand should move to indicate that you are breathing deeply.
            Exhale through a tiny hole in your mouth. Do not use your nostrils to exhale.

            Each step is important, so if you skip one part you might not get the optimal benefit.

            Next thing, practice this in calm moments. This is not something that we learn while under duress. We need a calm time to practice. I LOOOVE doing this before I fall asleep. I sleep better.

            1. JaneB*

              And try to make the in breath shorter than the out breath – I breathe in for a count of 7, out for a count of 11 when I’m trying to drop off. For incipient panic attacks at work, I have a phone app that I can use with headphones or behind a closed door, which talks you through a 2 minute breathing exercise or visualisation.

    2. fposte*

      I’d also say that I don’t think the consequences are nearly as a dire as you’re making out. Most of the time panic attacks are pretty invisible to other people; most of the time people don’t spend a lot of mental energy on people who don’t seem all that interested in them. I think your anxiety is sending you leaping to a chain of conclusions, none of which are really likely: he’s not likely to think you’re a major asshole, he’s not likely to talk to his father about you, his father isn’t likely to worry about it.

      Myrin’s suggestion is a good one; what you’re looking for is something else to focus your brain on. Also have a look at the Moodgym website; it’s free online cognitive behavioral training for dealing with depression and anxiety, and they might have a few more tools while you’re waiting to get in to a therapist.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        This is true. I’m probably way overthinking things (as I’m wont to do – I hate that) and no one noticed. But cognitive behavioral training sounds like exactly what I need right now since, clearly, the many years of therapy I’ve had in the past has not helped.

    3. NicoleK*

      I don’t generally have panic attacks but when I get anxious, it’s helpful to remind myself to breathe and to keep breathing. Also a walk helps to calm me down.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Walking helps when I’m mad, so that might help when I’m anxious (though it would have been pretty funny for me to start walking out of the Starbucks before even getting my latte).

          1. Doriana Gray*

            I get syrups in my drinks. I know that doesn’t help, but I can’t drink unsweetened coffee (and I’m addicted to coffee – I need it to be able to function).

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Artificial sugars can cause panic attacks in some people. In as much as I can see the damage sugar does, I do think that using real sugar is preferable to using artificial sugar- because of the potential for panic attacks.
              Not sure if you have seen my other comments- this paragraph will make more sense if you do see them. As I was winding down from the attacks, I noticed that many of my attacks occurred after having artificial sugar. So I quit the artificial stuff and reduced my number of attacks by at least 50%.
              I started using agave or stevia and had no problems with those.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t know if this would work for you or not. I had random attacks, I never knew when they would happen. My biggest terror was that it would happen while driving, which it did. omg.

      My practitioner said to look up and look around. This part is going to sound stupid but bear with me: Identify objects in your surroundings. For example, “there is a window”, “there is a cash register”, “there is a book” and so on. Keep going around the area, identifying things, until the panic subsides. He said that we tend to look down when the attacks hit. To get out of the attack we need to look up and look around. After a couple years of fighting with this I looked up one day. I was actually amazed that I did not break, but you know what I mean.
      The panic went out. I kept handling it this way and finally the attacks stopped. As I was getting a handle on this my husband started having attacks. I told him to look up. It. was. the. hardest. thing. in. the. world. I could feel his pain. But he looked up and he could not believe the change.

      I also got the toxic people out of my life and cleaned up my diet. I had let too much of my life and myself slide, I needed to take more control of my own ship.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        The identifying objects thing is good, as is practicing deep breathing before an attack – it just happened so suddenly that I forgot pretty much every trick I ever learned when I was in college and being treated for depression/anxiety.

        1. Random Citizen*

          Could you maybe make a list of these tricks with keywords or whatever (so it wasn’t super obvious what it was) and keep it in your pocket/purse so you had it on hand when an attack happened? That would keep you from having to try and remember while you’re in the middle of an attack.

          1. Random Citizen*

            That should be “what it is” and “so you have it on hand.” I don’t know why I was randomly typing in past tense. :P

          2. Doriana Gray*

            That’s a great idea. I can put a note on my phone since this thing is practically glued to my hand.

    5. wildfirefly12*

      I’ve struggled with panic attacks for quite some time. Sometimes they are just physical pain in my chest I can just ignore them, but I’ve had the full-blown ones similar to what you described. I agree with what Myrin said. However, if you find that doesn’t work for you, here is another approach. Before you experience another attack, think of something else you can focus on during a panic attack. Maybe it’s a mantra, or maybe it is a list of your favorite ice cream flavors, or maybe it’s the process of how to do something you enjoy. Mine has changed over time. One time I used reviewing a training lesson for my horse I was working on learning. The trick is to give your mind something concrete to focus on, like your physical body or my examples. It will help ground you in reality and help your body control the panic.

      I also wanted to add that it is totally reasonable to not be over someone you cared deeply about in a few months. Emotions like that take time, so don’t beat yourself up too much about it. I’ve been in similar situation and it took a long time to move on. But, being on the other side of it, I can tell you, you will move on, in time.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Thanks for the suggestions and your kind words. I really do hope I get over this soon because my fixation on this person was irrational to begin with (we were never really close), and that should have been a sign two years ago that I was starting to slip back into obsessive behaviors and needed to get back into treatment. Now I know.

    6. QualityControlFreak*

      My panic attacks usually come with a racing heartbeat and feel like a rush of adrenaline you cannot turn off. Exercise is one thing that has helped me (at times when this is possible). Mucking out stalls was good therapy. So was hiking up steep hills. But even a brisk walk for a couple of minutes can help.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        My heart was racing so fast and beating so loud, it was all I could do to try and hear anything else around me. I probably should add walking to my list of things to do on my lunch break or immediately after work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That breathing exercise I mentioned above will lower your heart rate 1o beats per minute. Just to feel the heart rate going down is some relief. I also recommend vitamin E from a natural source, not a chemical reproduction. Vitamin E helps blood vessels to remain open. A chunk of panic happens with blood vessels closing off and muscles tighten from lack of blood flow.

          I’ll tell ya, I was toasted to the point where I would not have been able to read the suggestions here, I would have panicked. I am impressed with how you are reading along and commenting. That is a very good sign.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Well I do want to get help – I can’t keep ignoring something that’s clearly a problem. I’m embarrassed that I’m going to have to go back to therapy and tell someone about what’s going on in my head, but I get that I have to do that too.

            So vitamin E helps? I never knew that. Looks like I’ll have to swing by the nutrition store this weekend.

            1. anon709*

              You could try to reframe therapy as something not to be embarrassed about – it’s just another tool in the toolbox that people use to get and stay healthy. Good luck!

              Sort of related: I think I had a panick attack this past week. I’ve never had one before so I’m not sure if that’s what it was, but I have been anxious and stressed lately so it would make sense if that’s what it was. I’m going to make an appointment with someone through my EAC program. Let’s check in on the open thread next week?

              1. Doriana Gray*

                Oh, I hope you didn’t have a panic attack – I wouldn’t wish one on my worst enemy. Yes, do let me know how your appointment goes. It’s encouraging to hear about other people working to get mentally healthy.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              The thing about asking for help, receiving help and actually applying the help is that it grows us. We are somehow bigger than we were before. And in some ways people who have had to pull themselves out of bad spots are ahead of other people who never had these types of experiences.

              I never did therapy for any length of time, but I used supplements/diet. HOWEVER, when you change any aspect of your life it involves a lot of self-examination. For a moment, consider a person who has hoarding tendencies. In order to get out of that they will have to take a good hard look at how they view life, that is part of their process. Another example is people who have lost large amounts of weight will say they had to work on their thoughts/minds as well as work on the weight concerns.

              Likewise with panic attacks, one must look at their life. There are many ways to do this. So my self-examination included many self-paced things such as reading books on specific aspects of my life that needed sprucing up.
              I came to the conclusion that I felt my life was reeling out of control and the feeling was so strong that the simplest problem would trigger an attack. TBH, my life was out of control. It was monumental for me to admit that. I don’t know why. Before it was over, I changed almost everything I was doing and I changed many of my firm beliefs.
              This is where I started: I promised ME that I would take care of me. I promised me the basics- food/shelter/clothing/transportation. Yeah, basic foundational stuff, I had to start there. I had to learn to say NO to people more often, in order to do this I had to learn the definition of “reasonable expectations”. And this is how it went for me, I changed one thing at a time.

              It’s a process. And I don’t believe my process will end, I will just keep learning and growing. In the last ten years I think I have had one minor panic attack. I was standing next to a toxic boss (the worst boss I have ever had in my life) when it happened. I quit the job, because from experience I know the panic attacks will only get worse. So I quit with no job lined up. I haven’t had an attack since then.

              Promise you, that you will do whatever it takes to help you. I think once you start seeing results, it won’t matter what others think and you won’t be embarrassed because you will see that you are moving to something better.

        2. Susan*

          High intensity exercise is also very important. As important if not more than therapy much of the time. It reduces anxiety and depression. It helps for days afterwards. I’d suggest you join a group fitness class or get a personal trainer. 4 times a week is what’s recommended but start small.

    7. mander*

      I went through a period of having multiple intense panic attacks every day, and weirdly, consciously trying to make them worse was helpful. I’ll see if I can find the article about it, but the idea is that you are showing yourself that it’s just a harmless reaction (for me, I was always convinced I was having a heart attack) and somehow the inability to make it worse actually made it better.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        That…sounds scary, lol. I’ll read the article and see what it says, but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try this just yet (especially since this is the first, and hopefully only, panic attack I’ve had in years).

        1. mander*

          This article reads a bit like an early 90s web ad, but check it out for a better description:


          The basic thing is recognizing that it’s a nervous system response that is coming from *you*, and that therefore you can control it — rather than being a response to a situation that is out of your control.

    8. FD*

      My sympathies. I’ve dealt with panic disorder as long as I can remember, and it sucks.

      First of all–yes, get help! A neutral third party can be very helpful. In addition, if they recommend medication, consider it. I remember having panic attacks as young as three or so (no traumatic cause, just messed up brain chemistry), and had them consistently until after college. Medication has really helped, so that I ‘only’ have to deal with anxiety, rather than full blown panic attacks.

      Second of all, would moving to another company be a possibility? Therapy and other things will help, but it might also help to remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes there’s no alternative, but it can be helpful to avoid major triggers while you’re trying to learn to deal with your anxiety.

      At any rate, besides meditation, the most useful techniques I’ve found come from a book called The Charisma Myth, which is actually more about how to become more charismatic, but focuses a lot on how to influence your own mental state.

      First of all, when you start getting anxious, you tend to think about it, and try to fight it. For me, that might be thinking, Oh my god, I’m getting anxious, I have to calm down or I’ll have a panic attack, and everyone will look at me and I’ll get fired… etc. etc. and it spirals. Instead, it’s better to accept and validate. I am experiencing anxiety, and that is unpleasant. However, I can work through it, and the sensations will pass.

      As others have mentioned, something that can be helpful is to catalog exactly what I’m feeling. For example, instead of just dwelling on, I’m scared, this might be, I am experiencing nervousness because I fear that Wakeen will think I’m awkward and uninteresting. The nervousness is manifesting by a cold feeling in my stomach and an elevated heart rate. Once I’ve made myself part that out, I can address those things piece by piece. For example, Wakeen might think I’m awkward, and he may not be interested. However, while that would be unpleasant, it wouldn’t physically hurt me, and I wouldn’t have to talk to him again. I can also do things to help with the physical symptoms, such as breathing slowly to calm my heart rate and sipping a little water or sucking a mint to help settle my stomach.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Leaving my job isn’t an option unfortunately. I just got promoted, I’m finally making decent money, and I work for a pretty decent company/division all things considered – there’s no guarantee of that if I go somewhere else.

        But you’re right – I did try to fight it while it was happening, and maybe I shouldn’t have. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I try to control my environment and my feelings with various degrees of success.

        1. FD*

          Which is understandable! Fear response evolved to help humans survive in dangerous circumstances, so anxiety provokes a very strong DO SOMETHING TO MAKE THIS BAD FEELING GO AWAY. Unfortunately, the impulse isn’t terribly useful when you’re feeling stress about feeling anxiety.

          The Charisma Myth has a line where it points out that if you try not to think about white elephants, you’ll end up with herds of them dancing in your head. And in fact, when people in a study were told to try not to think about white elephants, they were more likely to think about them for days afterwards.

          It might be helpful to remember that you are controlling it; you’re just doing so by accepting how you feel right now but learning to keep functioning anyway.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Tendencies of “control freak” MAY mean that you have an underlying belief that things are out of control. In this day and age, that is TOTALLY understandable. Take in less media, even if it is just for a short while, turn off the news more often.

          The use of affirmations helps. Tape them to your bathroom mirror if you want to.
          “I trust the ebb and flow of life and I will be okay.”
          “Things will work out.”
          “I will take care of me.”
          Your affirmations can be whatever resonate with you.

          Collect up calming tools. I use affirmations, the advice of trustworthy people, hot herbal tea, a dog in my lap, a visit with friends, and so on. Collect up tools that you know help you to feel better. Sometimes I put on sad music and deliberately make myself cry, because I have a bunch of locked up tears. And other times I can google Cake Wrecks and make myself laugh until my sides hurt. Having more than one tool is very helpful because if one does not work, you bump to the next one. Usually something works or maybe you actually need several tools for the particular issue of the moment.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This isn’t meant to be flippant, but I keep this picture on all my computers so I can look at it if I’m freaking out about something: http://calmingmanatee.com/1

            I don’t know why–maybe it’s the cool blues and greens, or the absolute innocuousness of that little face, but it REALLY helps me focus. Plus, it’s affirming something I’m trying to tell myself anyway.

            You can flip through that site for more manatee friends but that one is my favorite.

    9. Lora*

      For what it’s worth, I find my panic attacks happen less frequently and with less intensity if I keep my thyroid levels in the normal range. Wander too far from that range either too high or too low and I can be in big trouble! Then I know I need to have my levels tested and medication adjusted. I also think about situations that I have been in where I have had a panic attack, and envision me NOT having a panic attack. What will that look like? How will it feel? How will I act? By going over it over and over again, when I get in that situation, my body is like ‘oh yeah, I got this, no prob’. Do that enough, and it can get to be second nature without having to think about it. One of the things I think is important is to realize that panic attacks are very common, and it is not a ‘one solution fits all’ type of situation. You need to customize it for what works for YOU. So if you try something, and it doesn’t help, don’t berate yourself for ‘failing’, just move on to something else. Trust your instincts, listen to yourself. Be kind to you, and don’t forget to laugh! Always remember, no matter what, you are an awesome person!!

      1. Lora*

        And also remember that a panic attack uses a TON of adrenaline, so afterwards, a person is bound to be wiped out for the rest of the day, sometimes even two. depending on the person.

    10. AFT123*

      I know this topic has had a lot of replies already, but I thought I would chip in my dos pesos too! What helps me:

      1. Sort of like the tip above of forcing yourself to look around, I will look around at objects and spell them in my head, or find strings of text somewhere and quickly spell them out letter by letter in myhead (example – look at a sign and recite each letter very quickly in my head). I will also look around and as fast as I can, identify colors of objects around me, jumping from one to the next as fast as I can process the colors.

      2. If I’m shaky and full of adrenaline, I will try and find somewhere quiet (bathrooms are everywhere and are always private, they are my safe place) and flex/tense all of my muscles in my body, group by group for a few seconds and release. This is especially effective when flexing large muscle groups, like your thighs/hamstrings.

      3. Breathing exercises don’t work for me unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to make them work for me, and I’ve tried everything, for years. Instead, I will not try and control my breath, but I will forcibly make myself “stomach breathe” even if right away it means just pushing my stomach out and pretending, to try and force myself to stop hyperventilating.

      4. If all else fails and/or I’m in a situation where I can’t excuse myself (like a job interview) I make sure to wear long sleeves and I dig my nails into my arms under my shirt! It’s sounds awful and I do end up with marks for a few days, but in the heat of the moment, it allows me to keep my cool well enough to make it through the moment without passing out or something. Sometimes when I’m alone I also slap the backs of my hands, inside of my wrists, and forearms – I’m not sure why, but the added circulation seems to make me feel better.

  3. Marcela*

    Hey guys, can I ask you about plants? I have four plants at home, first time ever, and I am trying very hard to keep two of them alive. I have troubles with my poinsettia and a calla lily, and although I googled and read, I don’t think I’m doing better, and I ‘d like to get advice about what to do :(

    This is my poinsettia: http://uploadpie.com/ER41p As you see, its leaves are yellowish and most days there are dead leaves around the pot. Its usual place is in a corner right next to two windows, but it doesn’t receive direct sunlight or if it does, it’s the very early morning (before 7am) for a short time. I water it a tiny amount every other day, I’d say, but sometimes I’m sure it’s 3 times a week.

    But my real problem is my beautiful calla lily: http://uploadpie.com/sdMAO I bought in Halloween 2014, and it had a gorgeous deep purple flower. When the plant “died” I left the bulb in a dark place and watered when it started to grow again. At this point it seemed to me the pot was too small because I could see roots coming from the bottom, so I changed it to a bigger clay pot. My problem in this case are the drooping leaves. At my mom’s place lilys grew by themselves and I do remember them drooping because they were so long and big, but somehow I feel my lily is not healthy at all. Remembering it’s a winter plant, I put it outside for some days (I live near San Francisco), but it did not seem to improve things, so it’s back inside (my home is kept around 23 Celsius degrees, 74 Fahrenheit). Ah, and I also water it about the same as the poinsettia.

    I have to say that I am pretty ignorant about plants. So for example I struggle to get what “bright filtered light” means. I know it’s not direct light, but is it light through a curtain? What does bright means?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Light from a southern facing window is usually pretty bright. Yes, filtered light would be through a sheer curtain or similar. Usually when they say bright light they mean your best window with the longest period of strong light during the day.

      Do you have any fertilizer for your plants? They might like something to eat. The drooping leaves sound like a food thing.

      If you don’t find your answers here, you can take your plant to a nearby nursery and they will look at it for you then tell you what to do. I looked at your calla lily and I am wondering if it needs to be divided or if it needs a larger pot. It looks like it has old leaves on it, but the newer leaves seem to be standing up. When leaves don’t stand up that is minerals- fertilizer or fresh potting soil should help.

      1. Marcela*

        Yes, I wonder about a bigger pot, but I was waiting for the plant to go back to bulb before moving it. And I have to confess I thought water was the food for plants [hides with shame]. I’ll try with the nursery for a fertilizers: by myself I don’t think I’ll be able to pick one. Thanks!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          They can also point you to some potting soil and show you the next size pot you need. You don’t have to buy the pot, if you have one already, but they can show it to you so you know.
          Go to a good nursery- like a family owned place. Don’t go to the garden center at the big box store. Once you find that good place, you can keep going back with all your questions. For example, if your plant gets spider mites, you can bring them the bug, they will tell you what it is and how to fix it.

    2. Bean10*

      Yes, from my understanding “bright filtered light” could be through a curtain, or another plant.

      I’m no expert but one thing I like to do is use (cooled!) water from when I hard-boil eggs or cook vegetables, as long as there’s no salt in the water of course. This will not fix the problem if it’s a light/temperature problem but it seems to make my plants hardier.

      1. Marcela*

        I use the water my cat drinks, but the one from the previous day. :D At worst it has tiny pieces of tuna, but I guess that’s not harmful (right?)

        1. Bean10*

          Haha, I would think that’s fine. And I agree with Not So NewReader’s suggestion to go to a nursery if necessary.

    3. Short and Stout*

      I think you may be showing your calla lily too much love.

      You might have been overwatering it during its dormant period and may have given it too much room and too much nice new highly fertile compost in the new pot. The latter could account for the straggly growth.

      I would water it once a week or less if it’s dormant, and hold off on the feed.

      1. Marcela*

        If by dormant you mean when all its leaves are dead (so the pot looks like there is nothing there), I did not water it at all. According to the small instructions the plant came with, I waited until I saw a tiny plant growing to water it. And yeah, later, when the plant grew to its current size, I moved it to a new pot with compost I was recommended. Hm.

    4. Sara smile*

      Plant problems usually boil down to: water, sun, food.

      Yellow leaves usually indicate overwatering. You should be aiming for a deeper, more infrequent water. So more water, less often. You should be sticking your finger in the soil, about an inch, and only rewatering when it is dry. I would not be using the cat water, as you could be introducing bacteria to the plant from back wash. As an aside, the reason that water from cooking eggs works well is eggs shells are a great fertilizer for plants.

      I would also agree you need to be fertilizing the plants with plant food. New soil/compost is ok for a few weeks but after its exhausted, you will need to fertilize. Depending on the plant and type of fertilizer, you could be fertilizing every month to 6 months.

      Your poinsettia looks a bit leggy. This is usually caused by too much water, too little sun, too little food.

      You lily looks droopy. This is usually caused by too much or too little water, too little sun, too little food. For your Lilly, you need to cut away the yellowed leaves, those are not healthy. When you leave non healthy leaves on the plant, the plant is spreading thin its already thin nutrients. Also, your Lilly can take full sun. It doesn’t need to be shaded. Just because it’s a winter plant, don’t assume it can take very cold temperatures or can switch from indoors to outdoors – it’s usually more complicated than that.

      Finally, since you mentioned cats, both of these plants are toxic to cats, with lilies being very deadly. Please make sure these plants are worth it and are out of reach. There are plenty of nontoxic plants you can own!

      Good luck!

      1. Marcela*

        You see, this is what confuses me “This is usually caused by too much or too little water”. How am I supposed to know which one? Or how am I supposed to know I am do it the right thing? I guess it’s a matter of going in one direction and see what happens, but for how long? Pffst, I don’t want these plants to die because they are gifts, but I don’t really feel prepared to take care of them. Thanks for the advice, I’ll try what you say.

        As for my cat, they are out of his reach all the time. I put them on the table to take the photos.

        1. Sara smile*

          Feeling the soil will help you a lot with knowing when to water. You can also buy a moisture reader if you want a little extra help. I used to be a chronic overwaterer myself so I had to err on the side of underwatering. Basically whenever I thought it was time to water I would wait a day or two. How is your soil laid out in your pot? Do you have rocks in the bottom and have you added something like perlite to help make the soil fluffy? This will also help with overwatering.

          I got into gardening about a year ago. It is hard. My mother and MIL are very naturally gifted so I had always assumed how hard could it be. Well very hard apparently. For me I only have north facing light, so I am always fighting an uphill battle. I had gotten to the point that I told my husband the next plants that died would be the last. And then I started enjoying it. Kind of. I haven’t decided yet.

          Don’t sweat it if you don’t enjoy it, life is too short.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Added wrinkle: I do a lot of outside gardening. I think houseplants are much harder than outdoor plants. I gave up on having poinsettias years ago. I do a little better with bulbs. I did carry over some gerbera daisies- but they got so much TLC. I had them in front of a register for heat, I had a grow light and capillary material to assist with watering, I feed them folic acid, etc… it was like taking care of a child. (NO, not really. But you know what I mean.)

            In my opinion, OP, if you get one more year out of these plants before they die, you have done well. I don’t think your friends meant for you to sweat bullets over these plants.

            1. Marcela*

              Sara smile, Not So NewReader, thank you. I’ll do my best, keeping in mind your last sentences. It’s true that sometimes I worry too much :D

    5. Soupspoon McGee*

      I love plants, but I tend to kill them accidentally.

      Poinsettas make terrible houseplants. They grow in the tropics, and if you live in a place that has cold, darker winters, your plants will get leggy (trying to grow toward the 12-hour sun). They’re easy to overwater.

      I haven’t had luck with calla lilies either, unless I plant them outside.

      I’d start with some easy plants, like a philodendron. They’re tough. I got one in college and only repotted it last year. Now I’ve been able to make several new starts from it, and since I’ve been taking better care of it (fertilizer! pot that fits! light!), they’ve been growing like crazy.

      Orchids are pretty, and they grow if you leave them alone–just a tiny bit of water every week or two. I kept mine in the bathroom, where it loved the steam. Until I overwatered it.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I knew a woman who agreed she has a “black thumb” when it comes to plants. If it should be watered, she’ll forget to water it; if it shouldn’t be watered, she’ll over-water it; if it’s a fake plant, she’ll probably somehow set it on fire.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I went to see an elderly family member with vision problems. She had some lovely silk flowers in a vase.
          Then I noticed water in the bottom of the vase.
          I said, “Are you watering your silk flowers?”
          She said, “Not any more. I just stopped.”

  4. Lillian McGee*

    I am so very frustrated with my town and neighbors… The local government doesn’t have the best reputation so they deserve to be scrutinized but in this case I think it’s gone too far.
    The town is entertaining a proposal to build some affordable rental units on some open land “near” the center of town. The citizens have begun a protest ostensibly about the lack of transparency with which this deal has been handled thus far but I know better.
    This is about not-even-middle-class whites scared that poor blacks are going to be able to live in “their” neighborhood. They are afraid that having poor people here is going to lower the value of their homes–which I might add are mostly condos and townhomes and I CANNOT fathom why anyone would buy a condo or a townhome here. This is not dense urban space. This is a suburb. Of course your condo is worthless!
    They are also angry that their “tax money is paying for this.” Well of course it is. The low income housing tax credit to be specific and we’ve been paying it with our federal income tax all along.
    The cherry on top is their signage design. They took the name of the nonprofit org contracted to build the place and put a strike through it. The org has HOPE in the name so the signs from afar look like the protest is AGAINST HOPE. I can’t even.

    1. alice*

      Ooh, that’s almost funny. The only thing I can think of is this: is the open land home to wildlife? An open space near my home houses a ton of coyotes and prairie dogs, and I protested the development along with my neighbors because the developer had no intention of relocating the animals.

      But if that’s not the case, your neighbors are jerks.

    2. Artemesia*

      Yeah it is always the ‘process’ and ‘we weren’t told’. Decades ago our school district had a week long camp thing for 5th graders to study the environment. The arranger included an inner city school class at the same time as our lily white upper middle class white 5th graders. The howls are still reverberating. It was ‘lack of transparency’ and ‘we would not have objected if we had only been told.’ uh huh.

      Racism is at the core of American society; we have to just keep keeping on. I am grateful my kids had integrated schools as does my grandchild. My kids have both told me it was an important part of growing up to live in a society where everyone is not white. I had a scout troop that was about two thirds white and one third black and the kids got along great; I really believe this kind of experience is the best hope for improved race relationships.

      1. Irishgal*

        Why on earth would you need to be transparent about other school kids being at a kids camp your kids are going to? I hate that crap. Currently I’m distancing myself from people who I thought were like minded friends. They have started ranting about “immigrants coming and taking our jobs, using healthcare” etc, and when I point out that I am an immigrant who came and “took” a place at university and various jobs and have used the health care system from the start I get told “you’re not a real immigrant” and I’m like “yes I am and 4o years ago you were ranting about “my kind” coming here and had signs up banning us from shops, accommodation etc”

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          As an American Indian living in the US, this kind of talk always gives me an ironic chuckle.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I remember a Native American giving a speech during the Oregon standoff like “So, technically, it was our land to begin with…”

        2. Artemesia*

          This. Process is always a surrogate for ‘ I am a racist but don’t want to be perceived that way’ in these situations.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Many of us are transplants. My father’s family came over in the 1800s, my mother’s in the 1600s. When people complain about immigrants I ask “so, when did your family settle here?” The question seems to be lost on them. With my mother’s family, I wonder what they did, as some people in that era were offered a choice between a noose and a long voyage. Some of these folks were not upstanding citizens and once they got here things did not improve. My peeps. sigh.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      A town near us had the opposite problem. They put up million dollar condos in a poor section of town that was polluted by stuff coming off of factory stacks. Then they wondered why the condos were not selling like hotcakes. Stupidity abounds and has many forms.

    4. Jen*

      Well….I live in a snooty suburb that is currently fighting what MA calls “40B” housing- which is pricey condos/pats with a certain % deemed “affordable” so that people that make a living wage can live in our town. To give you a sense, “affordable” units are 300-450k; sticker price units are 750k+. The “riffraff” that will be applying for the affordable units are people like teachers in the (excellent, top ranked) public schools that otherwise are priced out of town, firefighters, police, etc. It’s truly embarrassing, especially when this is a condo complex that is going in on the edge of town near nobody’s “backyard.” People are afraid the schools will be overcrowded and roads will be impassable congested.

      We have had protests throught winter, including people trekking door to door in snow to get neighbors riled up.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Wow, even the affordable range would be like a dream home to me. Of course, I’m in a low cost of living area, so $400,000 would mean a 5,000 sf house with acreage.

      2. mander*

        Ugh. Reminds me of London. I’ve forgotten the details but there was recently a big deal being made about some “affordable” flats being made available — affordable being merely a £20,000 cash deposit on a £450,000 one bed flat, IIRC.

        I really don’t want to live here any longer than I have to. I hate supporting the monster that the city has become.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, the housing cost is one reason I can never live there unless I marry a rich British dude or suddenly come into vast amounts of money. Which isn’t likely, though you never know.

      3. L*

        Omg, we might be from the same neck of the woods. Are you close-ish to Brockton, MA? Although I’m sure this is happening all over the state…

    5. Grey*

      They are also angry that their “tax money is paying for this.” Well of course it is. The low income housing tax credit to be specific and we’ve been paying it with our federal income tax all along.

      No. Your tax money does not pay for LIHTC affordable housing. The developers secure their own funding and agree to offer 15 years of affordable rent in exchange for a 10-year reduction of their income tax liability.

      1. TootsNYC*

        ” a 10-year reduction of their income tax liability.”

        This means your tax dollars WILL be paying for it, because you’ll have to make up that missing revenue. But it’s also revenue that wouldn’t be coming in at all, if the developer weren’t building the place, so…

        1. Grey*

          Affordable housing isn’t charity. The “missing revenue” comes from the minimum wage workers who are now able to work there (cutting your unemployment rate) and the businesses that might otherwise fail because the weren’t able to hire help. It’s a plus for your local economy. You’re own taxes aren’t raised simply because someone else is paying less.

          I apologize that my reply didn’t have much to do with the question you asked, but I manage LIHTC properties. The claim that LIHTC projects are paid with tax dollars or that they’re a drain on our resources usually prompts me to speak up.

          1. Lillian McGee*

            Thank you. I suppose what I ever-so-ineloquently meant to express was that the affordable status would have no effect whatsoever on our tax burden.

    6. Anonsie*

      Typical. Same thing happened in my hometown when my neighborhood started getting gentrified– when new apartments started getting proposed, suddenly it was all “but our property values” and “there will be more crime.” They wanted single family homes only or nice retail space.

      It was so infuriating. You folks moved in here just now, the poor people were here first.

      The first thing they did, actually, was put in measures to ban the taco trucks that were around and practically a god damn institution. They had a hilarious list of reasons why a bunch of family owned businesses needed to be illegal: They sell drugs out of them, there are fights around them, they’re a cover for gang activity. All horse shit. Now the real joke is that ten years later, food trucks are en vogue and beloved by wealthier white people but they can’t legally run them on the streets in the newly gentrified neighborhoods that want them, so now they’re talking about lifting the ban. Ha. Ha.

      1. Windchime*

        Haha. I’m from a small town that is about 40% Hispanic and the taco trucks are an institution there. Everyone knows that if you want authentic Mexican food, you go to the taco truck on 2nd. It would be a cold day in hell before the taco trucks left my hometown.

        They did recently get a round-about though, to replace the flashing red light at the bank. You’d have thought they had installed a drawbridge for all the kerfuffle that ensued.

      2. Jen*

        And if they proposed single family homes, there’d be opposition against where the houses would be built, zoning variances, etc. people always have something.

  5. Shell*

    Writers of AAM: how often do you read?

    The old adage of writers reading a lot has truth to it, I’m sure, but for those who aren’t full-time writers I have no idea how they fit reading time around actually writing (which is super time consuming on its own) and their day jobs and everything else that life demands. Most of the time I barely have enough brain cells to do anything more complicated than phone calls to friends after work.

    I bought a Kobo two weeks ago (love it! Other than inept customer service and crappy documentation, which caused some snafus that didn’t need to happen) in the hopes of eventually spicing up my own writing, which has been rather stale for a while now. But man, finding time to read voraciously was so much easier back when I was a student.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I read all the time, but then again, my creative writing is sporadic. The trick for me is to read short fiction when I’m in the midst of a project, but when I’m “off,” then I can dive back into a novel. The biggest thing impeding me from reading for hours on end every day after work is this site!

    2. fposte*

      I read a ton in the job, so I’m less inclined to read books in my spare time. Outside of the job, I read mostly when I travel, and it’s mostly nonfiction. That’s not counting shorter articles online–I read a lot via Longform, for instance. But I use up my long-distance reading energy for work.

      1. Shell*

        I’ve long admired your vocabulary! Generally if there’s a word I don’t recognize, there’s a fair chance that you were the author of the comment :)

        I actually wrote down on a pad all the new words I’ve learned from AAM comments, but I left it at work (since I constantly add to it :P)

    3. danr*

      Since you have the Kobo, just bring it with you all the time. You’ll find that you’ll be reading in all those small time slices that used to pass you by.

      1. Shell*

        My reading needs to be in stretches of 30 minutes or more, because I just can’t get immersed in the story if I snatch a paragraph here and there. It’s like my brain has to shift into gear and think about what I’ve read before, plots, conflicts, etc. to really enjoy the reading. If I read during small snatches of time, I usually read the news or AAM–something I can quickly digest without being immersed in it. (Reading AAM on a small phone screen is another issue, and I almost never bother with the comment section when I browse on my phone.)

        1. danr*

          Do you re-read stuff? If you do, maybe have a few favorites ready to go for the short reading slices. Since you already know the story, it might not take as long to slip into it. If you don’t re-read, give it a try. After I got my first e-reader, I found it was very easy to just lose myself in the book. I almost read past my stops on the train a few times when I was commuting.

    4. alice*

      I read a lot I guess – at least 30 minutes a day of non-work-related material. But that’s almost entirely because I ride public transit.

    5. katamia*

      I read a lot in snatches, like during meals and when the dog wants company but not playtime. I’m also a pretty avid gamer, and I read a lot while games are loading (especially when I play Sims 3, because even though I have a gaming computer in good shape, WOW is that one slow). But I’ve been having a harder and harder time finding books that interest me over the past few years, so I’m not reading as much as I used to anyway, although I am writing more.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I usually have several books going at once: one in the kitchen that I read while I’m cooking; one in the bedroom that I read while I fold laundry and relax in bed; one in the living room; and one in the bathroom. If any of the books hooks me more than the others, I’ll delve into it exclusively until I finish it and then get back to the others. Sometimes I’ll take a book to work and read it during breaks.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Oh, I missed the part where the post was addressed to writers. Don’t mind me; I’m just a reader.

        2. Treena*

          Ok, so serious question–how do you read while cooking and folding laundry?! This honestly baffles me.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Cooking: I read during the parts where I’m just stirring the pot or during the lulls while I’m waiting for stuff to cook.

            Folding laundry: I prop the book on a couple of pillows to bring it close enough to see, and I read it while using muscle memory to fold the clothes. I fold and read for awhile, then I do a put-away run before finding and reading some more.

            Basically any mindless task where I can prop up a book for hands-free reading, I do that.

    6. K.*

      As much as I can! I’d say half an hour a day during the week now that I’m working again, more on weekends. I set a Goodreads goal of 40 books this year, and am averaging a book a week so far.

    7. Come On Eileen*

      I read for pleasure every single day. I write for my day job, so I don’t do a lot of writing in my free time, which means I can devote that time to books. I’m a voracious reader and read about 50 books a year.

    8. Hellanon*

      I’m a technical writer who dabbles in fiction & I read constantly. After a lifetime of mostly historical fiction & mysteries, though, it’s exclusively nonfiction nowadays – not because that’s what I’m writing, but because with nonfiction, I don’t always know how things are going to end…

    9. Oryx*

      I’m lucky to work in an industry where I pretty much am paid to be aware of books on the market so I read all the time and often listen to audiobooks while at work, too (depending on the task).

      It’s like anything else — I make time for reading just like I make time for writing, even if it’s only 20-30 minutes before bed.

    10. Cam*

      Audio books help me fit in hours of reading a day! And if you have a library card, you can download them to your phone for free. In MD and VA, you have the option between the Overdrive app or Hoopla, but I’m not sure about other states. I listen during my long commute, while doing chores, walking my dog, and when doing more mindless tasks at work. There are so many times of day when my hands are occupied, but my mind isn’t, and audio books fill in that gap perfectly.

  6. NicoleK*

    I need some sunscreen recommendations. I’m in my late 30s now and have to be more diligent about skin care. I have acne prone, oily, sensitive skin. Generally don’t wear any makeup. And the sunscreen has to work well with my medium skin tone (some leave a white cast and that would be too unnatural with my skin coloring).

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I use Neutrogena’s Clear Face Break-Out Free liquid-lotion sunscreen. It’s broad spectrum SPF 55 and it doesn’t leave a white chalky cast after application like their other sunscreens. Oh, and I wear Neutrogena’s mineral powder in suntan if that gives you an idea about my skin tone.

    2. Shell*

      Neutrogena Ultra Sheer. Absolutely matte. In fact, it’s so dry-to-the-touch I often have to add a tiny dab of moisturizer to it when applying so it spreads out evenly. If you can tolerate avobenzone-based sunscreens (as opposed to titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), that’s my #1 recommendation. I’ve never had a problem with it causing skin sensitivity, even around my eyes.

      I get them in 3-packs at Costco, SPF 50-60 (depending on whatever Costco bought at the time).

      1. Shell*

        I should add, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer has a version for the face last I checked, but I’ve never used it–the regular version doesn’t irritate my face at all, and the regular version is what Costco stocks in bulk packs, so that’s what I buy. I’ve no idea what the difference is between the regular and facial versions.

        1. overeducated and underemployed*

          I was going to recommend the same one, but I use the facial version. (Not a Costco member.) If you are only using it on your face one tube lasts a long time.

      2. Hlyssande*

        It’s also alcohol-free, which is cool. My friend who is literally allergic to alcohol introduced me to it and I love it. I’ll never use anything else if I can help it.

    3. Marcela*

      I can be outdoors thanks to the Biore Uv Perfect Face Milk Spf50 + / Pa ++++. I’m latina with medium olive skin, a very very very oily skin and this sunscreen doesn’t leave a phantom cast and it’s mattifying. Keep in mind, though, it’s alcohol based (that’s why it works so great in oily skins) so it could be too much for your sensitive skin. I’ve tried all drugstore and cheaper European and American brands and there is no comparison with the elegance and comfort of the Asian sunscreens. Even these days I keep trying to find something closer home, but Biore keeps winning. It’s not difficult to get it if you go to Amazon, and it’s not very expensive (around $13 shipping included), but the bottle is small so I use one every month. But this sunscreen is worth it, it’s the only one I can wear every single day without going crazy.

      1. Marcela*

        I forgot about my other sunscreen. You know we are supposed to apply sunscreen every two hours when outside (it can wait more if we are inside buildings not close to windows, especially if it is a physical sunscreen -titanium dioxide and zinc oxide- and not a chemical one, or what they call a “photostable sunscreen”, -for more info, skinacea.com/sunscreen/physical-vs-chemical-sunscreen.html but please, please do not think of chemical as synonymous of “toxic substance”, as everything is a chemical, made of the chemical elements of the periodic table).

        That can be very annoying if you are wearing makeup. For that I love the Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreens (50 spf), sunscreens in powder that you can reaply as often as you like. My husband and I drove from Boston to San Francisco, which meant we had the sun in front of us all the trip. I applied the normal sunscreen every morning, but it was Colorscience the one I applied every stop (and we stopped frequently). I was no more tanned after that week, and my sunspots were completely quiet, than in my normal life, where I don’t expose to the sun and I always wear a UPF 50 hat. I already loved this sunscreen because it helps me with my oily skin, but after the trip I could have buy stocks of the company. It is expensive, about $40 the tiny 0.21 oz container, but for me it lasts about 8, 9 months.

    4. fposte*

      Remember that whatever you put on only lasts a couple of hours; there’s nothing you can use just once a day and be done with it.

    5. Artemesia*

      I use Olay moisturizer with a really high spf and it hasn’t been a problem. I am very fair and don’t wear makeup and the normal sunscreens do leave a white sheen. This stuff doesn’t seem to.

      1. Artemesia*

        ps. I have to use sunscreen on my upper lip or get a weird sort of lipstick like line — like a klutz has tried to do a lip outline — clown city. So I ALWAYS put sunscreen there and have for decades — highest spf I can get. So since my 30s I have used the back of my hand as a pallet — put sun screen there and then touch up the lip line. And thus have rubbed high level sunscreen into the backs of my hands every day for over 40 years. I am now over 70 and have no age spots on the backs of my hands. Most of my friends do — my hands are like decades younger than I am and hands are one of the things that telegraph age. FWIW

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ooooh, that’s so interesting. I’ve been doing lots of thinking about the aging process (because I’ve discovered laugh lines), and thinking about asking people here who are older than me if there’s anything they wish they’d done at younger ages that would be paying off for them now. This is something you actually did do, but similar in spirit to what I’ve been wondering about.

          1. fposte*

            I’d have used sunscreen as a teenager and twentysomething. Granted, the sunscreen we had as a teenager wasn’t that good, but holy cow, I did my skin a lot of damage then.

            Oh, and I’d make sure to put sunscreen on my upper chest, above the shirt neckline. Man, that area got fried.

            1. Weekend Warrior*

              +++++1 to the upper chest protection! My hands are goners but I’m OK with that – I was using them. :) But the upper chest would have been easy to protect.

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              This must be one of the advantages to growing up in Southern California — we all put sunscreen on all the time unless we had managed to get a tan in early spring, and even then we’d put sunscreen on if we were gonna be at the beach or out all day.

              I still have little containers of sunscreen in my backpack, purse, and car because you never know when you’re gonna be all “hmmm … it’s hot and I feel a little funny … oh shit! I should reapply!”

              1. fposte*

                I think Australia may be the same way–the school uniform I saw for a friend’s little kid was hugely sun-protecting, which was a consideration I never heard at schools in the Midwest U.S.

                1. Treena*

                  Yes! Uniforms in Australia have good coverage around the neck/shoulder area. The primary school down the street from me includes these adorable wide-brimmed hats. When they’re out at recess, all of the children are wearing their hats.

          2. Windchime*

            Sunscreen, without a doubt. I have fair skin with an olive cast to it. I’m not a redhead but I have the kind of skin where I would look natural with red hair. When my skin is untreated, I have a lot of sun damage on my face. For years, I have pushed my bangs to one side of my forehead and I noticed the other day that the part of my forehead that isn’t covered by bangs has more sun damage and discoloration than the rest of my forehead.

            So–Sunscreen. I wear it on my face religiously now, even though I live in Seattle. Every day. I think it’s 35 SPF. The other thing that I do is exfoliate. I struggled with acne well into my 40’s until I discovered the magic of gentle exfoliation. I either use an Aveeno gentle scrub or a more intense Philosophy scrub. I use them gently, but I use them daily and it’s a rare day when I have a pimple now.

          3. Artemesia*

            Good skin is part genes of course and I am lucky — my mother had good skin till the end. But I always use sunscreen on face and hands and neck and until I left my hair go grey at retirement, people always assumed I was 10-15 years younger than I was. When I announced I was retiring the universal reaction from colleagues was ‘why are you doing early retirement?’ — I was 67.

            The hand sun screen thing was sort of accidental but when you are old it is really dramatic how different hands are and how they announce your age. Having no age spots is great — although they are now getting that crepy look; time doesn’t stand still although it can be slowed a bit.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I really wish I had never started smoking, and also that I never laid out when I was younger. I don’t know why I ever bothered doing either, especially the laying out because I only tan lightly and burn first.

      1. Basia*

        I’m in my 40s and still have acne, although not as badly as I did when I was younger. I use Aveeno sunscreen for babies – 55, I think. Because it is for babies, it is gentle on my skin, and the protection has worked well for me.

    6. Lillian McGee*

      I really like the Murad SPF oil-free mattifier (15 spf) but it’s a little on the expensive side. There’s also an anti-aging version with 30 spf for about $10 more but it doesn’t look like it stays matte like the other one. The mattifier works nicely and keeps my makeup from sliding off my face late in the day…
      To be cheap, I am trying Neutrogena pure & free liquid sunscreen (50 spf) It’s okay, but it is a little grainy (!?) and leaves a little bit of white behind. It doesn’t stop the makeup from melting off like the Murad, but it does okay overall.

    7. Jen*

      On my acne prone face (I’m 33, ugh) I use either Clinique City Block, which is a tinted SPF 30, or neutrogena spf 50 for face.

      I use the City Block for when I’ll be out in the sun all day indirectly (eg day at the zoo with kids), and the strong stuff when I’ll be lying on the beach.

      In the winter, I use a neutrogena daily moisturizer that has SPF 15 in it.

    8. Mando Diao*

      I love Derma E’s face sunscreen. It has antioxidants but it’s not a moisturizer, and that saves the formulation for me (I layer it over a separate moisturizer). It doesn’t have the slimy feel that lots of spf moisturizers have, and it doesn’t make it hard to apply makeup.

    9. ginger ale for all*

      In addition to wearing sun screen, I now wear a sun bonnet. I got it at Whole Earth Provisions. It has a wide brim and a fabric flounce in the back and sides so my hair also gets protection. I color my hair and I noticed that it hasn’t been as dried out as it usually gets in hot weather and the color stays truer. The brand name is Sun Day Afternoons. I really should have gotten one years ago. My facial skin also improved because I wasn’t as diligent about putting on sun block after work for my less than five minute walk home.

    10. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I’m a big fan of Kiss my Face and Super Goop brands. I have had melanoma (lots of skin cancers in my family) and have to be super diligent as well. I also have oily, acne prone skin and buy cruelty-free brands so my options are a little more limited. I have also started using a CC cream (IT Cosmetics brand) instead of foundation, it has an SPF of 50+.

  7. KS*

    Having serve anxiety about my flight later today. Haven’t flown in years and was mostly avoided but decided I needed to live life and see the world. Doctor prescribed me medicine but I have visions of that Bridesmaids scene. Wish me luck!

    1. fposte*

      You’ll be fine, but I also think you shouldn’t take Bridesmaids as a documentary; the doctor is likely to have underprescribed, if anything, for a first-timer.

    2. Sibley*

      Don’t think if it as something to be nervous about or scared of. It’s an adventure! Changing your mindset will help.

    3. Dan*

      If you’re traveling abroad, the worst thing is going to be jet lag, not the flight. Jet lag does suck. Bonus points if you can’t sleep on planes like me.

      What are you afraid of? Identify that and start from there.

      Keep in mind you are more likely to die in an accident on the way to the airport than you are in a commercial airliner.

      Plane crashes make news because they are rare. If they happened all the time, people would get used to it.

    4. Tara R.*

      I found out that I was scared of flying during my first ever flight– two days of flying, to be more accurate. It sucked. If you’re flying with someone else, make conversation!! Great for taking your mind off things. Otherwise, try to listen to something that will keep you engaged– a funny TV show, a podcast, anything that won’t give your mind lots of time to wander. And let the anti-anxiety meds do their job. Everything will be great, and you’re going to have so much fun!!! Good luck. :)

    5. KS*

      I survived! Currently in sunny Florida. It was not as bad as I had made it up to be. Once we got in the air I had a couple drinks so that helped me relax even more. Thank you for the advice and well wishes!

      1. Windchime*

        Good for you! I try to treat air travel as a treat. I make sure I have a warm, soft shawl to cover up with, my kindle fully loaded with a couple of good books, and some podcasts on my phone to make the time go faster. If it’s a long flight, I’ll also take my knitting.

        The last time I flew, it was clear across the country (Seattle to Boston). I finally gave in and rented one of those little electronic gizmos that play movies and it was great. Spending a couple of hours being involved in movie really made the flight more bearable.

    6. Me2*

      I’m an anxious flyer too, and I don’t drink alcohol (never cared for the taste or calories plus it’s supposed to be very dehydrating on planes), and the thing that helps me most is to have something to do with my hands that is repetitive like crocheting or needlepoint. The repetitive motions are soothing and it occupies my brain just enough so that I’m not worrying about having to keep the plane aloft by worrying it to the destination.

  8. anon for this*

    Does anyone have any recommendations for bisexual dating apps or websites? I find most dating websites either make you list yourself as straight or gay or they’ll allow bisexuality as an option but you appear as straight to people of the opposite sex and gay to people of the same sex, so it’s not actually like people looking at your profile can see you’re interested in both.

    I say I’m bi in the summary section, but I find most people don’t read those or it leads to questions from men about how willing I’d be for a threesome or if I can give details about my sex life or questions from women trying to see how “gay” I really am or if I’m just bicurious.

    It’s exhausting and depressing and I really just want a space to date where I don’t have to deal with biphobia or list myself as anything but bi. The queer groups in my city haven’t really been that helpful because their events cater more towards gay men and lesbians and everyone else under the umbrella is sort of pushed over to the side.

    1. Erika*

      Ugh, what a frustration. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to add except to keep doing what you’re trying, and be up-front and who you are. I had a hard time dating as a bi girl (are you just not ready to call yourself a lesbian? Do only make out with chicks when you’re drunk? And on and on…). I ended up meeting the man I married (bad bi girl! BAD!) through friends. Sometimes the “old-fashioned” way works best.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Don’t buy into the anti-bi prejudice, Erika! We can still consider ourselves bisexual even if we’re monogamously married to someone of the opposite sex, just as you can be LGBTQ even if you are not currently dating or having sex. Our identity is what we know we are inside, it’s not defined only by our most recent actions! :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I also meant to say that that was just half teasing, and half making sure that others understood the insidious anti-bisexual prejudices you were referring to with your “bad bi girl!” comment.

    2. AnonRightHereNow*

      Not bi, but familiar with the dating scene and the challenges it can have because of some close friends who have struggled with it.

      I highly doubt you’re going to find a space to date where you don’t have to deal with biphobia. I wish that weren’t the case, but I’m sure you realize that at this point and are just hoping for a solution. :( Friends who are bi have had more success with OkCupid (IME), but that really depends a lot on your area as well.

      If it is any consolation, it seems as though online dating sucks no matter where you are on the spectrum. You are not alone in the suck.

      But, I do have a suggestion for you, and it is to push the queer groups to offer more for bi people as well as others who don’t fall under the gay/lesbian labels. Can you offer to lead the event if they will help advertise/put it together? A mixer, or a dinner, or bingo, or bowling…etc. I find that sometimes, someone just needs to be the push/shove to get a group of people going and make a change. I can’t imagine you’re the only person feeling this way!

      Good luck! As I said, I’ve had friends struggle with this, and I feel for you. I hope things turn around :)

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah. I took a break because there were way too many sexual messages or requests for threesomes. That’s where most of the “tell me about your sexual history” requests came from.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Of course this rules out some dudes you might actually be interested in, but if it works for you, I found the “hide my profile from straight people” option cut waaaay down on the number of gross sexual messages I got on OKC. (And honestly, at this point in my life I would rather meet bi/pan dudes than straight dudes anyway.)

        2. Felicia*

          I got that on OKCupid too, and I had it plainly listed that I’m a lesbian. There’s a very sad reason a lot of lesbian profiles on there say no men and no couples and I think you’ve experienced some of that. I hide my profile from straight people now which mostly stopped that.

          So no good suggestion but I feel you on the OKCupid woes.

            1. Felicia*

              You just go to settings, which you can get to by click on your profile picture, and then under general, there’s a whole list for privacy, so you just check off the box next to “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people.” It was life changing when I found that one.

          1. Treena*

            Yes, this is what I came to say. OkCupid has it’s faults and icky users, but they do seem to always be improving things (or at least trying). From what I’ve seen there are some imperfect options for bi women. List yourself as bi and just mindlessly delete anything too interrogative/you don’t like. I personally don’t have a problem with this, but I realize that everyone’s tolerances are going to be different (not bi, but poly). What most long-term users seem to do is either list themselves as bi and make themselves invisible to all men.

            Go to Messages, and then if you click the gear wheel symbol, that’s the “Filters” section. I always have the compatibility one checked off, you can also turn off entire genders (on the binary), age ranges, or locations not near you. That way, the messages just go into this other folder that you never have to click on. (I do every once in a while and it’s HILARIOUS).

            Another option that I would love to hear if it works, and if you’re interested in spending a little bit: If you have A-list (the paid version of OkCupid) you can also filter by specific words. I don’t know if you can distill the biphobic messages down to specific words that you can screen for (threesome for sure, can’t think of any other foolproof ones).

    3. Noah*

      Right there with you. Gay guys act annoyed (why don’t you just come out? are you going to run and marry a women after this phase?). Some women are weirded out by the whole thing. I seriously wish it was possible to only date other bi people sometimes, but that’s not the best solution either.

      1. anon for this*

        I get that from women all the time and I really hate that there’s still this idea that bi people are more likely to cheat or run off and marry the opposite sex. One of the reasons I’ve wanted to be so upfront about listing myself as bi is because I’ve had people accuse me of trying to pull one over for not admitting it immediately. That, and I don’t like not being able to be honest about my sexuality.

    4. Ruffingit*

      It’s so frustrating sometimes. I’m not bi, but I am childfree by choice and when I was using dating sites way back when, I would always list myself as such and make it clear I was looking for someone with NO children. I got tons of messages from men who had kids. WHAT THE HECK?? People just don’t read I guess or they ignore stuff or whatever. Anyway, I get some of the frustration and I hope others here can recommend some sites that will be better for you.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I quit using dating sites because nobody reads your profile. They just look at your picture. Also it all goes by your birthday, and all I was getting was really old dudes and I knew they wouldn’t be interested in a family. Plus we had absolutely NOTHING in common.

    5. Tara R.*

      Unfortunately, the requests for threesomes hit all lgbq+ girls. I get a ton and I’m clearly listed as a lesbian complete with a ~No couples please~ at the bottom of my profile. A bunch of my bi friends use tinder, but it’s definitely all of the things you list. I don’t know how old you are, but if you’re relatively young (< 25 maybe?) you might want to check out some university campus queer stuff– at least in my experience, it tends to be less lesbian/gay oriented and more welcoming to everyone under the umbrella. (Just realized that as a lesbian I might not be the most aware of biphobia, so I texted some bi/pan friends, and they confirmed LOL).

      1. anon for this*

        I’ll be 30 this year, so the college option is out. My university’s queer groups were pretty lesbian/gay oriented despite being in a very liberal, queer friendly area, but I’m glad to know that seems to be changing!

  9. Carrie in Scotland*

    Those of you who have a dysfunctional family situation, I am wondering if you have any advice for me? (equally anyone else!)

    In the past my dad’s wife and I have not got on very well however I have been really trying the past few years to get on better with her (possibly she has been doing the same).

    However on Wednesday she was really passive aggressive and rude to me. Wr had all been drinking but I wasn’t drunk. Anyway she started.on me and I lost my temper (because she had been at me the day before too). It ended up with her on the stairs like a child saying “I’m not going to bed, I’m not being kicked out my own kitchen by THAT” (I was that).

    I’d been staying at my dad’s before all my furniture arrived today in fact. Anyway, I left on Thurs with my cat and camped out at home.
    I really don’t want anything to do with her. But how can i see my fad & brother without missing out? It seems unfair that I’d miss drinks and birthday meals put as she will be there :-(

    1. Sibley*

      Do you read Captain Awesome’s blog? I feel like you might get some good ideas there.

      And you don’t have to like her. That’s not required.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I go with not arguing with a person who is drunk, I will never win. I will only lose. (Decades of experience behind that sentence.) Even sober that same person can be difficult to be logical with, as their emotions run all over the map.

      Will your dad help if you ask?

      1. Whoopsy*

        My advice for arguing with drunk people, trolls, and people who are So Rational They Can Opt Out Of Every Aspect Of The Social Contract: “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” -Robert Heinlein

    3. themmases*

      My mom and uncles (well, all of us really) had similar issues with my grandfather’s partner. She just really rubbed us the wrong way, and I don’t think she liked us much either. When my grandfather was dying, one of my uncles made his first visit in years due to a fight with her. (I think my uncle had been in the wrong too, but come on– this was his dad.) None of that stuff had to happen! At the same time, she took care of my grandfather and I had to forgive her for how she is.

      I think boundaries are really hard when an adult with adult children dates or remarries. It’s not at all obvious whose ‘side’ the remarried person should be on like it would be if the in-laws were their parents. The remarried person might be living alone or going to soon, and they have to make decisions about their independent life that might not be what their family would prefer during visits. Ultimately I think that includes getting to date or marry someone who would be terrible stepmother material if the kids were still living at home. It sucks, but I think loved one’s daily happiness > family’s comfort at Sunday dinner.

      A few things helped me and my family deal with my grandfather’s partner (who was awful and accused us of stealing from their home the day of the funeral– turned out her own son borrowed that stuff):
      – Come up with a story for yourself about her behavior, even if it’s not true, that makes her seem sympathetic to you
      – When that fails, fall back on ‘she makes my dad happy’
      – Share ideas with family members about what works and what doesn’t when dealing with her
      – Vent after without guilt, to someone you know won’t let it get back to her

    4. Engineer Girl*

      I have a sister that is diagnosed bipolar and also borderline personality. She picks fights whenever possible to be the victim. She “wins” if I get disgusted, lose my temper, and say something.
      I found that the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud helped my situation. I also found the book “Crucial Conversations” an amazing help.
      My best advice is… don’t engage. If she makes egging statements, ignore them. Smile and walk away. If she continues with baiting respond with “what do you mean by that?”, “could you clarify?” etc. By asking for clarification it forces her into either backing off or saying enough to expose her meanness. It’s really important to remember to NOT take offense. It isn’t about you, it’s about her. If you don’t take offense then you don’t lose your temper and you don’t say the wrong thing. They’ll do 1 of 2 things – they will either back off or they will escalate to the point where everyone else sees what they are doing and calls them on it.
      It’s also fine to have “Dad” time and “brother time”. Take them out on one-on-ones so you don’t have to include stepmom.

      1. Florida*

        I like Crucial Conversations. I’d also recommend Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton, et al. Also, the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Elgin. This is an old book that should be a must-read for everyone. It is all about how to deal with passive aggressive attacks without being a jerk yourself.

      2. Carrie in Scotland*

        @engineer girl – I did alot of walking away and disengaging over christmas and the night previous to the one in the original post. I wonder if that is partly why I lost my temper.
        Also all of the things she said about me are untrue! Her mindset when it comes to me seems very warped. She doesn’t do this to my brother.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I used to get upset by that too. Especially when it affected my relationship with others – there’s few things worse than a distortion campaign!
          I finally realized that they were speaking about themselves when they made false accusations about others:
          “You’re going to embezzle Dads estate” – turns out she did (I’ve yet to see a cent of my inheritance)
          “You’re mentally ill” – right before she was diagnosed.
          “you are abusive” – right before rants on FB that got so bad that several family members blocked her.
          So if she’s falsely accusing you take that into account. She’s telling you something important about herself. It’s easier to ignore when you view it that way. It is also highly probable that she sees you competing for affection. As if love were a finite thing!
          And always remember that the truth will come out at just the right time, but only if you hold to the high ground!
          In the mean time have one on ones with Dad and Bro. It does get better.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Excellent examples for OP, Engineer Girl.

            OP, take a good look at EG’s examples. It’s projection. Her sis is projecting what she is doing on to others. In reality she told EG and her family, “here is what I am going to do to you.”

            The rule of thumb goes like this: If someone makes accusations against you that you KNOW are not true, then the next step in logic is that they are projecting themselves on to you.
            For example: Let’s say Great Aunt Sue claims you are stealing from her. You know for a fact that this is not true you have not ever stolen anything from Great Aunt Sue. Your next step is to immediately start looking around for what Great Aunt Sue has stolen FROM YOU. She is projecting herself on to you and basically is telling you what she is doing to you.

            Engineer Girl’s example here is a great example of how this looks in real life.

            This is an important thing to know. You can then estimate how to best handle the situation and protect yourself because this person has warned you.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              This is key — a lot of people who are cheating will become suddenly suspicious of all their partner’s activities where they never were before.

              1. Windchime*

                So true. I have a close friend who’s (now ex-) husband had a history of starting a relationship while still involved in the prior one. So, cheating. He came to be in a relationship with my friend the same way. And then constantly accused her of cheating. I told her, “He is a cheater, so he views the world through the eyes of a cheater. He knows how easy it is to cheat and he does it all the time, so of course he is suspicious that you are also doing it.”

          2. Elizabeth West*

            This is true. Some people are so insecure and they do not understand how love works–the more you love the more there is. They think love is something you have to ration. If Dad is paying attention to you, he’s not paying attention to her, etc., which means she is no longer loved.

            This may not be her thing–she may be just a bitch, but your brother doesn’t threaten her as much as you do, for whatever reason. After the Snow may have called it.

            Don’t feel bad that you lost your temper. Anyone probably would have.

    5. MsChandandlerBong*

      I’m in a similar situation with my FIL and his wife. I am convinced she has NPD (I am not a mental-health professional, but the signs are there: the gaslighting, the liking people until the second they aren’t of any use to her, the total emphasis on appearance, etc.). For five years (from right after my hubby and I started dating until about two years ago), I tried my hardest to get along with her. I complimented her all the time, bought her extravagant gifts (I spent more on her in a few years than I ever did on my own mother, who is perfectly happy with a $2 gift), did a lot of favors for her, etc. The second I dared to stand up for myself (she was yelling at me on the phone, and I told her–very calmly–that I was not going to accept being screamed at like a naughty child), I was no good. That phone call happened in April 2014, and I haven’t seen or spoken to her, or my FIL, since.

      My husband has seen his father a couple times since then, but he always asks that his father meet him at a restaurant and come alone (this woman is terrible to everyone, not just me, so my husband can’t stand her either). It’s the only way he can maintain some semblance of a relationship with his dad. Maybe you could ask your dad and brother to do things separately so that she’s not involved?

    6. Dynamic Beige*

      I’ve had this happen to me three times in completely different ways with women my father was either dating or living with. IMO, your stepmother is a grown-ass woman who is jealous of the fact that *her* man has had a previous life and that means that she has to stake her claim to being first with him and supplanting you. As someone else said, some women just need to be #1 and will claw and scratch and fight to get there, regardless of who they have to trample to do it — even their own children. Whether this is a symptom of NPD or not, I couldn’t tell you.

      Having said that, if this was an issue with your MIL, it would be up to your husband to fix it and draw that line in the sand. IMO, this is your father’s responsibility since it’s his wife who is disrespecting his child. Doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or not. You are still his child. He wouldn’t allow you to come over and rip her several new arseholes, would he?

      When I was 10, my sort-of-stepmother drove home drunk after closing. I was sleeping on the couch in the “good” living room (which wasn’t all that fancy at all) because we never had a room at any of our father’s houses. This woman had two children that were older than I was, they were either out partying or asleep in their beds in their rooms. She woke me up with the slam of the door after she saw me there. I then got treated to a hissing that wound up to screaming. It went from “she’s putting dents in the couch!” to “I hate them! I hate them! I hate them!” within about 10 minutes as she tried to get across her point that my presence in *her* house was completely unacceptable. My father never said anything that I could make out. In vino veritas indeed. I had always had an idea that she didn’t like us, I had been told by my grandmother that she has sabotaged a bunch of visits we were supposed to have. But the point is — my father never said a word. He didn’t stand up for me, and I was his child. I didn’t know it at the time, but their relationship was grinding to a halt and within a year, she was gone. So I’m sure that was just one fight of many that I never got to experience. But still… no “that’s MY DAUGHTER you’re speaking about!!!” Really?

      The second time happened when he took us to get haircuts when we were visiting him in the new place he lived, which was a few thousand miles away. I have never in my life had a hairdresser been so rough with me. I found out later that she was his girlfriend and he had probably bamboozled her into giving us free or cheap haircuts because he had no money (he also borrowed a TV from her as he didn’t have one). She took that resentment out on me, I can’t speak about my sister. Afterwards, when my father asked what we thought of the haircuts, I was honest and told him that I didn’t like it, she had hurt me. “Oh no, she’s always very gentle when she cuts my hair.” was the response, which completely negated my feelings and experience around it. That was the only time I ever saw her. It also taught me that my father didn’t care what I thought or felt.

      The third time was the last time I went and visited him for the summer. He had a girlfriend and she tried really hard (too hard) to get us to like her. She didn’t get it — from my perspective she was just another one who would come and go, just like all the others. She insisted we participate with her in her favourite hobby — ceramics. I tried to say no, because I was not raised to take money from strangers, but my father also insisted. So one night a week, we were voluntold to do ceramics. The last night, I was sitting in my father’s car with the windows down, it was August and hot. She had wanted to speak to him so they were about 10-15′ away at what I hope she thought or hoped was a safe distance — I will never know. She started in on how little time they were spending together because of “the girls”. We can’t do this/we don’t do that because of “the girls”. She was crying. I felt really bad that I was destroying his relationship and cried myself just hearing how pitiful she sounded pleading for my father’s attention. We were due to return home in a week — where we would remain for 10 months until the next summer. But, on the night before we were due to fly back, my father dumped us off at our grandmother’s house and took his girlfriend out for dinner. I remember the look she had on her face, she was somewhat embarrassed, because I think she did get it in the end that she was putting herself in between a father and his children… but they went anyway because she was also a little defiant. And she knew she had “won”, she had beaten two little girls for a man’s attention and that meant she was more important to him than we were. Which is precisely the lesson I learned from that. The reason I never went back was that my mother got cancer and needed help managing, not because of this specific incident.

      So, IMO, this is something you need to speak to your father about. Honestly, clearly when you’re both not drinking or angry. Ask him what the deal is with his wife, are they getting on? Tell him how much it hurt you to have your stepmother treat you like that. If he’s half a human, he should be able to get that this is a boundary that he needs to set — that she is not allowed to disrespect his children any more than he would allow you to disrespect her. She married him, she knew he had kids, that you were part of the package. This isn’t about who is more important, it’s about the fact that you are both important. He has probably not been doing a very good job of showing that. Her anger might have been because you were swanning about their place, eating all their food and just generally being a lazy moocher — but I doubt that you are like that.

      If she does have some degree of NPD, then a lot of the dynamic of that involves having people around the Narc who enable their behaviour. If your father is non-confrontational/doesn’t like to make a scene, he may never stand up to her because it’s just “easier” to let her have her way. And if that’s the case, sorry Charlie, there’s nothing you can do except not rise to her bait and hope she pops her clogs before he does.

      A good non-apology apology is “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Next time “I’m not going to leave on account of THAT!” — “I’m sorry you feel that way.” keep on doing whatever you were doing. I unfortunately had a lot of experience growing up learning that if you act like you don’t care, eventually people will stop trying to hurt you and leave you alone. While I’m not recommending it at all as a life strategy, realising that you can’t change the other person, understanding that they are lashing out because of their own fears/insecurities/whatever and you are an easier target than the one they’re really upset at. Besides, she’s not your mother. You don’t have to like her. You aren’t required to be obedient to her, and even if she was your mother, if she’s toxic it’s your choice how much you participate (or not) in a relationship with her. That would be nice, if you could all get along and be Happy Families, but it’s not always possible and that is not your fault.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Thanks! But as the saying goes, it could have been much worse. I am embarrassed and humbled by some of the things other people have endured when I make comparisons. I truly believe we are never given more than we can handle, the problem is that we just might not handle it all that well.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If you are using that as a tool to keep a level head, then just ignore my first sentence here: I have heard it said by adults that were beaten as a child, that the verbal abuse was actually more hurtful than the physical abuse.
            You have been through some negatively powerful stuff. But you are using your experiences to help other people and that too is powerful but in a positive way. Rock on.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              Thanks! I tell those stories so that other people can learn from them. I mean, I know it wasn’t good, it’s taken me a long time and a lot of thought to come to terms with stuff and there was a lot of stuff to process. I kind of think of it as if the worst problem you’ve got is trying to figure out what new outfit combination to wear tomorrow, then that’s your worst problem. It may be inconsequential to someone who is trying to figure out where to get their next meal or where they’re going to sleep tonight, but it’s got just as much importance to you. Coming to terms with a profound kind of neglect is something I’m still working on. I had never thought of it that way before, so that’s a strange kind of on-going adjustment. I knew things weren’t “normal” but living in only one family unit, it’s kind of hard to judge how “un-normal” something is.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I think that in some ways it gets “worse” as we get older because we start to realize that the scope of the problem was much larger than we ever imagined.

                About 7-8 years ago I had another major realization that expanded the scope of my setting. My friends were talking about having lunch with their mothers. I had to cover my mouth, because I almost said, “why on earth would anyone do THAT?”
                Two things happened:
                I realized I was letting go of A LOT of information about me.
                I realized that I just found something else that I never had a shot at in life.
                In the end, I was mostly angry with myself for being too willing to speak first and think later. And I kept thinking “how odd. Lunch with your mother. That is so odd.”

                So that “un-normal” does seem to expand. My wise friend used to say, “We start to examine these things when we have finally reached a safer place.” It’s true. When we are in the thick of Abnormal we don’t have time or desire to think about how Abnormal it is. It can end up being some pretty far out stuff.

  10. Ashia*

    I need some help putting a week’s worth of healthy but cheap meals….I can’t put anything due me having a major brain fart right now. Lol

    1. Aardvark*

      Turkey chili! I like this one with 1 can of tomatoes, 1 can el pato sauce and 1 can Herdez salsa subbed for the tomato soup, and a mini can of jalapenos for spice (or a can of green chiles if I’m cooking for people who don’t like spice):
      http:// allrecipes . com /recipe/82768/lauras-quick-slow-cooker-turkey-chili/

    2. danr*

      Chicken. A whole roast chicken, then one hot meal and salads or sandwiches for the rest. Chicken breasts or thighs: brush with a balsamic and oil mix, add rosemary and garlic and some pepper. Bake until done, about 40 minutes. Devour.
      Pasta, as mentioned… make a meat sauce with a pound of ground meat sauteed in onions, add tomato sauce, herbs and garlic. Freeze what you don’t use the first night in portion sizes. You’ll need to experiment to get the amount. Pot roast, either slow cooker or on the stove. It’s always better the second night. I cut the leftovers into slices so they heat up faster. A potato (or more) added to the pot roast at the end of cooking saves a pot. We have it with green beans.

      1. Artemesia*

        Chickens are great. We stew a chicken and use the broth and meat for chicken and dumplings the first night, then I use the meat for a casserole like chicken tetrazini the second, and sandwiches with another soup the next night and then use the carcas/broth and reserved chicken for a heart chicken vegetable noodle or rice soup with corn muffins for the next night. Tasty and cheap and one big chicken will yield 4 meals for 2 people.

        Bean and lentil dishes can be used to stretch meat. A well seasoned lentil dish can get by with a little bit of ham or sausage or even a dab of left over hamburger (we always freeze left over hamburger bits and then use them for spaghetti sauces or bean dishes.

        Crock pot dishes are also good. I use them for pot roast mostly but there are lots of recipes for chicken that allow you to make a big batch that can then be served over pasta, rice etc etc.

    3. TB*

      Budget Bytes is a GREAT website for cheap meals that are healthy and easy to put together!! The blogger also does breakdowns of the ingredients’ costs, which is nice.

      1. Violet_04*

        Another reccomendation for Budget Bytes! She does weekly posts that show her receipts and menu plans for the week. I’ve found several repeat recipes.

    4. Treena*

      I just did a modified version of a sweet potato hash I saw on those Facebook food videos. I diced a large onion, 1 huge sweet potato, 2 medium red bell peppers and sauteed it all in a pan. Added some chopped up spinach and added a can of butter beans. The recipe called for black beans and paprika/cumin flavor palatte, I just used what I had on hand instead. It was super easy and it was amazing as leftovers.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Stupid easy baked chicken:

      12-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
      2 envelopes onion soup mix (the kind you use to make sour cream dip)
      Chicken pieces, like boneless breasts or drumsticks

      Mix the orange juice concentrate and soup mix. Pour half into a baking dish large enough to comfortably hold all the chicken pieces. Add the chicken and pour the rest of the mixture over top. Bake uncovered as appropriate for the chicken you used (usually 350 for 45 minutes or so works).

      Serve over rice.

    6. Snazzy Hat*

      – Rice and vegetables.
      – Pasta. If it’s particularly filling, it’s a meal by itself. My dinner can be a plate of egg noodles with nothing else, and I’m set. Need a tiny bit more variety? Tri-colored pasta. Every time I eat that, I feel as though I’m actually eating semolina pasta with cooked spinach and tomatoes.
      – Soup and sandwich. Variety abounds!
      – Bread, cheese, and fruit. It sounds weird at first, but when I still lived with my father, we had this for dinner at least once every two weeks: baguette-style bread, a couple of hard or semi-soft cheeses, and two roundish fruits. The regular stars were french bread cut up into six pieces, cheddar and havarti cut into cracker-sized slices, and either two different apples or one apple & one pear sliced into eighths. Presentation was bread on one oval serving dish, cheese & fruit alternating on a large round serving dish with the small tub of butter-like substance in the middle of the dish.

      Going on almost two months in a two-person household with no income. Cheap food is my way of life. (I, too, will definitely check out Budget Bytes!)

  11. Tris Prior*

    OK, all “get off my lawn” jokes aside: Is it appropriate for a homeowner to ask that the neighbor children not play in her front yard?

    My mother’s neighbors have three very loud boys, age 9 and under. They insist on roughhousing in her front yard (their favorite pastime seems to be kicking one another in the crotch), have sometimes damaged her landscaping or broken flowerpots on her porch, they throw rocks at the squirrels… etc. Her neighbors are VERY angry with her because she asked them to stay off of her property: “But, everyone else on the cul-de-sac lets them play in their front yards; I don’t see why YOU have a problem with them!”

    When she brought up the property damage she was told “my boys would never do that” and the kids all denied it. They believed the kids, not her.

    Is she out of line or are they? She’s starting to get a rep as the bitchy old lady of the neighborhood, because she is not willing to accept her front yard getting torn up, and because she asks them to get off her lawn every time they start playing on it.

    Short of videotaping the kids in action (which would never happen as she cannot operate any sort of technology, nor can she afford it on her fixed income), I am not sure what she should do. I’m just amazed this is even A Thing. I was taught as a kid not to go in other people’s yards if they didn’t say it was OK, but I was raised in a major city. Maybe expectations are different in suburbs.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think she’s out of line at all; unfortunately, it does sound like she’s out of step with the neighborhood and therefore she’s going to have a tough time getting what she wants here. I don’t think videotaping would help anyway–she’s not suing for damages, she wants them to not be in her yard at all, and nobody seems to be disputing that they’re in her yard.

      I think her options are:
      keep making the point politely to parents and kids
      escalate to the cops
      put up a fence or hedge

      I’d probably go for the last. She probably doesn’t even need to put it across the front; just along the side boundaries, since what probably happens is it all gets treated as one yard.

      And when I was a kid we played in everybody’s yard. I only remember playing in yards where we had permission, but I wouldn’t bet money on memory.

      1. Noah*

        I was going to suggest a short fence too. Make it require some effort on the kids part to enter her yard. It is not fair that she has to spend money on it, but it might be the only option that actually produces the desired result.

        FWIW, when I was a kid we played all over the neighborhood, but generally only on the street, the greenbelt, in a friends yard, or our own yard.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Yeah, we never played in people’s yards, ever. There were a lot of fields around and we used to run around in those but not on people’s front yards, unless we were over there playing with their kids or being babysat by that person.

          My neighbours across the street have asked if their kids could use my driveway to skateboard (it’s on a slide slope and had just been paved for the first time ever) so I said fine but if you break your arm/leg it’s your fault/problem!

      2. Tris Prior*

        Hmm. A hedge might work. She likes to garden and could probably put it in herself. It’s the kind of suburb that has regulations out the yinyang re what you’re allowed to do to your property, though, so she’d have to check to make sure she’s not running afoul of anything.

        You’re right; no one’s disputing that they’re in her yard. The issue is that the neighbors don’t understand WHY she doesn’t want them in her yard. And really, that probably doesn’t matter because no reason would be good enough; the neighbors think their demon spawn should be welcome anywhere. :/

        1. fposte*

          From what you’ve said below, I think it’s become a fun game for them; she’s Mr. Wilson to their Dennis the Menace. So anything she can do to take the game element out of it might be helpful. The truly evil thing to do is warmly interrogate them about how they’re doing in school every time she sees them; hand out lovely gorgonzola and broccoli bites and tell them, “Eat up! Don’t be shy!”; tell them they’re just in time to help her practice her reading of Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” Be absolutely delighted to see them for reasons that they will deeply regret–and if they don’t, hey, they’ve learned some Keats and can help her bake.

        2. Headachey*

          Okay – this actually worked for a relative of mine: she told the kids (and their parents) that they were welcome in her yard as long as they helped maintain it – and then every time they showed up in the yard she’d start handing out gardening tools and assigning work. The kids were shocked the first time she followed through and then learned she really meant it and stayed out of her yard after that.

        3. Saucy Minx*

          Use barberry shrubs to make a hedge. They’re pretty, some of them keep their leaves year-round — & they have plenty of thorns.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Barberry bushes are the absolute devil when it comes to thorns. We used to very carefully clip little branches from our Barberry bushes and lay them across the soil of our houseplants to keep the cats from using the houseplants as litter boxes.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      No, your mother is absolutely not out of line for telling her rude ass neighbors to keep their demon seeds off her property. They don’t pay your mother’s bills, and what the other neighbors may or may not allow has nothing to do with your mom. She told them she doesn’t want their bad ass kids playing in her yard, and the correct response from her neighbors should have been an apology and a promise to keep their kids out of her yard! The nerve of these people to think their kids are just entitled to play wherever they want, privacy be damned.

      Frankly, these people better be lucky this wasn’t my mother. My mom curses out the neighborhood kids. If their parents have something to say about it, she lets their asses have it too. My mom’s old school – she firmly believes in home training. Clearly some of these kids don’t have any.

    3. Myrin*

      Oh my god, this would make me so angry if I were your mum, I really wouldn’t care if I were known as the surly curmudgeon in 2b, no way would I want to have any of that. Argh, just thinking about it makes me aggressive! So, erm, as you can see, I totally don’t think she’s out of line. But I also have to say, like you, I’m really surprised this is happening at all. I mean, I’m not in the US so there might be a cultural difference at play, but unless you live in a house with many appartments where all parties actually officially share the garden or you actually have (families with) kids over, it’s not at all a done thing here to just go play in a yard that isn’t yours. I’m really flabbergasted by that.

      (As an aside, I’ve always been really annoyed by parents who view their children as little “can’t do anything wrong” angels, especially since that mostly comes from the parents whose children are notorious for being a pain. I mean, it’s great to have parental support and for parents to not unfairly chastise their children and protect them from people who are mean to children just because but I often feel like a dose of realism would be in order instead of automatically denying everything.)

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, I grew up in the US and the ‘burbs – this just wasn’t done where I’m from. I remember one of my childhood friends coming over, coming into the gate that surrounded my front yard, climbing up into a tree that was visible from the kitchen window, and my mom yelling at him through the window to get the hell out of her tree (I was in the house reading and had no idea he’d come by until I heard her cursing him out).

        He never did that mess again. In fact, none of the rest of us kids went into people’s yards unless we were explicitly invited.

      2. Erika*

        I grew up in the US too, and this would never have flown in my neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing? I’m only 30 though, so maybe not.

        Either way, I’m a parent and believe me, if I heard my kids were doing this, they’d be in BIG trouble. My kids are not little angels, just like every other kid.

        1. Tris Prior*

          OK, good to know – I’m over 40 so part of me was wondering whether I have a “get off my lawn” problem too, haha.

          Apparently she’s spent the better part of today reminding the kids over and over and over again to get out of her yard…. as soon as she turns her back they are right there again. Sigh.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I know you’re joking, but whoa. I mean, the squirrel thing really irks me and I would put a stop to that every time I saw it, and she has every right to ask them to stay off her property, but I don’t think there’s any need to trash-talk children whose parents are the problem here.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                I was in fact joking, but “normal kid” things is flipping off adults at 6? Nah, that’s disrespectful kid things from children who need serious discipline.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sorry, right after I wrote that, I read more of the comments (like the flipping her off) and removed the “normal kids” part of the comment! Yes, they are disrespectful. But the issue sounds like it’s coming from the parents. Either way, I don’t think we should be talking about kids that way. This situation ultimately sucks for the kids too, with parents like that.

                2. Doriana Gray*

                  Bad ass kids are bad ass kids – they’re not exempt from being called out on it. But yes, their parents are the biggest problems here.

                3. Tanaya*

                  When you say your mother ‘curses out’ the neighbourhood kids, do you legit mean she swears and screams at them? If so, wow. They’re kids. She’s an adult.

                4. Doriana Gray*

                  I’ve written many times on here how…not sane my mother is. So when the neighborhood kids run through her yard and steal her furniture and the stuff out of her grill, she tells them to get their bad asses the hell out her yard. After three times, they stopped.

                  People like her are all the more reason parents need to get their kids under control when it comes to respecting other people’s property – you don’t know who you’re dealing with. There was a complete loon who lived in my small town who would come to the door with a shotgun and point it at kids when we were just walking down the street in front of her house and she thought we were too loud.

          1. Grumpy*

            How about a “No Trespassing” sign and call the police when they they violate. Might as well get CPS involved now, sounds like they’re gonna be regulars in a few years.

        2. mander*

          I would have been in so much trouble if I’d pulled this as a kid. I’m 41.

          This also reminds me of some horrible little brats that used to live on my parents’ street. The neighbor was elderly and frail, and didn’t always lock the garage door. Even though her whole yard was fenced to keep her small dogs in, this gang of kids was climbing the fence, stealing things out of the garage, sometimes coming into her house, and running around the back yard terrorizing the dogs. The neighbor was terrified of these kids and asked my Dad to talk to them, which he did very calmly (Maggie has asked you to stay out of her yard and garage. If I see you there again, I will talk to your parents.).

          The little girls (8 or 9 years old) told my Dad that if he talked to their parents, they would claim that he molested them. One girl said flatly that they would believe her, even though it wasn’t true, because she was just a little girl.

          I was sitting on the back porch where they couldn’t see me the whole time this conversation happened. I always thought I should have called the police and reported what she had said, just in case she actually did make false accusations. It really burned me up because my Dad is always outside building or fixing things, and he would let the neighborhood kids watch what he was doing, teach them how to use some of the tools, let them play with his creations (he once made a car with an old lawn mower engine), and so on. It was a really happy day when those kids moved away.

          1. Tris Prior*

            I can absolutely see these kids doing something similar. Maybe not accusing her of molestation, but some sort of false accusation that the parents totally would believe. :/

    4. Sibley*

      The fence or hedge is probably her best bet. Or moving away. Luckily, the kids will eventually get older and do other things, which will hopefully not involve property damage. And if it does, she can always call the police on teenagers. Harder to do that with younger kids.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yeah… I wish she could get out of there. Unfortunately she’s underwater on her house and it needs a ton of repair; selling is not really an option at the moment. :/ I shudder to think what these kids will be like as teens. One is already giving her the finger all the time and he’s around 6 years old…

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Holy crap, is their name Glossner?? (From the show “The Middle”.) I think the youngest kid was about that age and did exactly that in one episode.

    5. Erika*

      What the hell? What is wrong with these kids’ parents???

      I agree with fposte that a fence or hedge might be the best way to go if she isn’t getting much traction from the kids’ parents (I’d re-landscape with cacti, but I’m a [glassbowl]). Otherwise, I’d say she should start asking for remuneration when the kids damage her property. If she’s enough of a squeaky wheel, the parents are likely to tell the kids to stay off her lawn just to shut her up.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yeah, she asked the parents to pay for a plant and flowerpot that the kids destroyed. They refused because “I asked my kids and they said they didn’t do it.” :/ (that was what inspired my videotape comment, haha)

        1. neverjaunty*

          $20 says she never even asked the kids, she just doesn’t care and certainly doesn’t want to pay for their damage. These are the kind of parents who don’t care if their kids are playing in traffic as long as they aren’t underfoot.

    6. katamia*

      No, your mother’s not out of line. In addition to the property damage, if one of the boys gets hurt on her property, then there could be liability issues for her. Not a lawyer and I’m sure this varies a lot by state, but just something else I wanted to mention.

      I grew up in a suburb, and while we definitely experimented with cutting through other people’s lawns sometimes, we never thought it was okay. We were always very quiet and secretive about it because we knew it could get us in trouble if we were caught.

      1. Tris Prior*

        She actually brought that up to the father one winter when the kids insisted on climbing the mountain of snow that the plow had left in front of her house. She pointed out that she’s legally liable if they get hurt on her property and then her insurance will go up. Apparently he just looked at her blankly, like he didn’t know that’s how liability works?

      2. BRR*

        That was my first thought because my parents have the only driveway in their neighborhood that’s long and steep enough for sledding. I pulled into the garage one day with a few kids sledding and giving me the strangest look as if I didn’t belong there. Turns out they did it a lot and never asked.

        1. Brandy in TN*

          Last year my neighbors kids (across the street) kept liding down their hill across the street, into our ditch, back up and into the back of my cars. They had slowed down by the time they kept hitting my back bumper. Drove me insane. Finally the parents saw me looking out the window and made the kids stop. Ugh. I know as kids they arent thinking because I didnt at that age but [parents watching need to make kids behave.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I will go the opposite way on this one. I mostly agree with everyone here. BUT. I live in a neighborhood now, where kids run through the yard, etc. That is the norm. And if you say something then people feel that you do not understand your neighbors and your community.

      I would be tempted to go back to that mother and say, “Okay, I have never experienced a neighborhood like this before but I am willing to try. I would like to let you know that if I see something get damaged or the possibility of someone getting hurt on my property, I will be speaking to the kids. And I will come tell you what I have said.”

      It is very possible that although she is right to be concerned about insurance, etc, she could be wildly out of sync with the community and that would cause her more harm than the actual problem itself.

      Maybe she could talk to friendlier neighbors and find out their thoughts on this subject. I do know that mothers who take the attitude of “my kid never does wrong”, in time, end up isolated from the rest of the neighborhood because they tick everyone off eventually.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yeah… What sucks is that she was there first. The neighborhood has changed around her, with retirees moving out and families with small kids moving in. Though it seems to be just this family whose kids are not being taught manners. She is now the only elderly person on her street. It sucks, but I guess this is the risk you run when you own property – the neighborhood can change in ways you don’t like.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. I worry about this here. I have been here 20 plus years. Each one of my neighbors talks about moving. I hate to think about this but this could happen to me. I could be the old lady on the block. All I can do is continue on being friendly with my neighbors and hope for the best in the future.
          Right now it is great here. My friend came to help me do some repairs on the house. He finally commented, “It’s impossible to get work done here because all your neighbors stop by to chat.” Yeah. It’s good here.

    8. Florida*

      You could call the cops. When they come, they will not arrest the kids, but they will talk to the kids and the parents. In most situations, that will solve the problem.
      The other thing to do is to talk to the parents, and tell the parents that the next time you see the kids on your property, you will call the police. But please don’t make threats that you don’t intend to keep, so only say that if you intend to do it.
      Also, if there is a cop that rides around your neighborhood regularly, tell that cop the next time you see them. That cop can talk to the kids when they are out playing in a friendlier, but still serious way.

      Next time there is property damage, I would definitely call the police. Again, the police are not going to haul the kids to jail for damaging a flower pot, but they will scare the kids. If the kids at least admit that they did it, maybe the parents will make the kids stay in their own yard.

      Maybe Mom can set up a lawn chair in the neighbor’s yard and sit out there and read one day. When the neighbor comes out and says, “Why are you sitting in my yard?” Mom can say, “What’s the problem? None of the other neighbors complain about me reading in their yard?”

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Maybe Mom can set up a lawn chair in the neighbor’s yard and sit out there and read one day. When the neighbor comes out and says, “Why are you sitting in my yard?” Mom can say, “What’s the problem? None of the other neighbors complain about me reading in their yard?”

        LOL! As funny as that is, sadly, I don’t think these people would realize the absurdity of it all. They’d still let their kids run wild through this woman’s yard. Or worse, they’d up the ante and do something equally petty in retaliation.

    9. Samantha*

      From what I’ve seen while taking my son to parks and museums and talking with my teacher friends, I think this kind of behavior (the parents’ not the kids’) has become commonplace, sadly. These are the parents who think their little angels can do no wrong, refuse to correct or discipline them in any way, but heaven help you if you try to tell their child nicely not to hit your kid or destroy your personal property. It scares me to think of the adults these kids will grow up to be!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        These parents are the grown-up kids who were parented during the self-esteem movement–where nobody should ever experience any disappointment or negativity because it might damage their fragile little psyches. In other words, THEIR parents did nothing to teach them how to behave because they might have been “upset.” Now they are old enough to have their own children, and the cycle continues.

        My mother would have grounded us for EVER if we did this. We grew up mostly outside town, but when we lived in the city, we didn’t play in someone’s yard unless we were invited.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Shitty, lazy parents who see their kids as an extension of their own ego have been around forever. You probably know “dog parents” who act the same way.

    10. Lady Bug*

      Everyone has given you good actual advice, so here are some evil fantasy suggestions:

      Motion detector sprinkler system?

      Sing really loudly on your front porch every time they show up? (No one wants to hear me sing).

      Plant stinging nettles between the houses? Cactus?

      Shotgun and “get off my lawn”?

      Play spice girls songs on repeat?

      1. Hellanon*

        I was going to suggest a poison oak border…I have taken to planting large thorny things where the neighbors let their dogs do their business, but I am cranky and tired of cleaning up after other people.

    11. Valeriane*

      Raised in the country here (shopped & went to school in nearby university town). I was taught not to go in someone’s yard unless they invited me, & that’s how I brought up my kids.

    12. Dynamic Beige*

      I really like the “handing out gardening tools” suggestion. Surely there are a lot of dandelions that need pulling up? Work will surely scare them away. If you are in an area where having the cops come by is possible, that’s also a good suggestion.

      Otherwise, is it possible for your mother to put a lawnchair out front and go outside when they show up? The little rat bast– I mean wonderful citizens of tomorrow are doing it because it gets your mother upset. If she wasn’t upset, they wouldn’t do it. No one else has pushed back, so it’s not as “fun” in other places. They are getting off on getting away with something they know they shouldn’t do. Also, the yard is empty when they go out. If your mother went out with a small shovel and started digging weeds for a bit, then sat in the chair and watched them, they would quickly bug out.

      But, I would also suggest that your mother might want to start some sort of campaign. If she is the only one in the neighbourhood who has a problem with this, then unbelievably she needs to make her case to the other adults. I mean seriously, this is not rocket science. It’s pretty normal that you stay on your own patch of turf. But, all the more reasonable adults on the cul-de-sac could be worked on. Your mother is elderly, she is a pensioner, she doesn’t have any money. Surely there is at least one person in that neighbourhood who is not a dunderhead and gets the concept of liability? Maybe if those neighbours heard that other people in the neighbourhood agreed with your mother’s stance, they would listen to “their peers” rather than an old lady they don’t really respect.

      I would also suggest that your mother confine her gardening efforts, potted plants and whatever else to the back yard if there is one. If the front yard doesn’t look inviting and there’s not neat stuff to destroy, then there’s less incentive. Eventually those kids will grow up and get over it, especially when they find video games.

      Another thing that I wonder if it would work is if you appealed to the neighbours’ sense of safety. “While I have in the past asked that Mussolini, Hitler and Pol Pot do not play in my front yard, it is truly for their own well-being. I need to start spraying my lawn regularly for Japanese beetles/midges/fire ants/whatever sounds bad and it’s not recommended that people walk on the grass for 48 hours afterwards. It hasn’t been conclusively proven in any reputable journal that the chemicals definitely cause cancer, but some folks are concerned about that. Me, not so much.” All she would need are some little “please keep off the grass” signs like ChemLawn uses and a spray bottle full of water. She could even drop some food colouring into it to give it a “this is not really water” vibe. But that’s probably not allowed by the association, another thing to check. There might also be some regulations about trespassing/children playing or other things that could be used in your mother’s defence.

    13. Kyrielle*

      I have two rambunctious boys ages 4 and 7, we live in the suburbs, and _I_ tell them to get out of neighbors’ yards unless I’ve just observed the neighbor invite them to be there. Your mother’s neighbor either comes from an entirely different cultural background than I do, is a jerk, or both.

    14. Treena*

      Honestly, I would start spraying them with the hose and/or calling the cops. It seems like your mom has tried loads of reasonable options.

      As a teenager, I used to live on a street that had become infested with young families that wanted to pretend they lived in a cul-de-sac. MY family lived in the cul-de-sac part, they all lived 0-150 feet from the main road. In other words, me and the residents from about 40 other houses on our street had to drive past their homes. They all allowed their kids to play in the street, and felt that everyone should slow down to 5-10 mph while passing their homes, kids or not. (residential neighborhood= 25mph speed limit) They would scream at me for “driving too fast” and I would always be going 20-25 mph. They threatened calling the cops All. The. Time. and I finally shot back for them to go ahead, because I knew the cops would show up and accuse me of what? going under the speed limit?

      Weirdly, they also taught their kids that they never had to get out of the way for cars. Anytime I would drive to/from the house between 3-6pm, I would have to inch by them because they would never bother stopping their game for a car. I would tap on the horn, thinking they hadn’t seen me (yea, right) and they STILL would ignore me. I eventually started to just lean on the horn for as long as it took to get them to move. They hated me. No regrets.

      1. Tris Prior*

        OMG, these kids do that too. Once I was driving away from my mom’s house – inching down the street because I know these kids will come out of nowhere and run right in front of your car. Three of them did run in front of my car and just stood there with their arms folded, daring me to move. I couldn’t believe it. I laid on the horn and told them to move, and eventually I guess they got bored and moved on. FFS. I couldn’t believe it. What little bullying a-holes.

    15. Snazzy Hat*

      Oh my god, I am so glad I’m not out of line for insisting people (mostly kids, occasionally adults) stay the hell off my lawn. I’m getting the feeling that I made myself clear this past summer when I calmly asked my neighbor to tell his kids to stay off my lawn & not draw on my sidewalk, and my tenant-who-was-supposed-to-have-already-left started screaming and swearing at me for daring to tell those kids where they could and couldn’t play (and of course “reminded” me that the sidewalk is not mine, but rather “the city’s”), since I don’t think I’ve had any problems since then.

      But the summary of the overlying problem is this: I’m an introvert, I have occasional anxiety attacks, I own this house (and have lived here for almost ten years), and the people in the upstairs of the left house are related to the people in the downstairs of the right house, so I’ve had to fight an uphill battle of “my front yard is not the middle part of these two yards”. I did put up a very lovely garden fence in 2014, but it did *not* hold up in 2014’s blizzard or 2015’s post-thaw. Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions of thorny hedges! I’m hoping to get hedges planted this spring or summer, plus pampas grass in the corners. It only takes one kid to run screaming to a parent, “I cut myself on the neighbor’s grass” or “Billy pushed me into the thorns”, for the parent to ban the kids from going where they oughtn’t.

  12. Sibley*

    It’s warm here today! Like, in the 60s! I was able to let the cats outside for fresh air and play time, hopefully they’ll take full advantage because it’ll be in the 40s tomorrow.

  13. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    My pet fish died today ;(((((

    My bf brought over antibiotic tetracycline last night b/c my fish wasn’t eating 2 days straight, and had dark bits round the gills. Woke up this morning to a little fishie body at the bottom of the tank. Held a mini funeral of sorts.

    I know its just a fish, but to me, my little fish meant a lot. He was my little buddy. My bf’s coming over tonight. How do you get over a pet death/fish one? Feeling kinda down. The fish was a year old at least.

    1. Pokebunny*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. :( It’s never “just an X”. Fishie was your companion and buddy. If anyone tells you that, they’re judgy and snarky and we should all feel judgy and snarky right back at them.

      I don’t think you can really “get over” it. I think it’s good and healthy to mourn and express that emotions. And surrounding yourself with non-judgy people.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      Sorry about your fish :( I remember when my goldfish died and I cried my eyes out. Don’t feel silly – grief is grief. Have a good cry if you need to, watch goofy movies and eat a bunch of junk with your friend, and hopefully you’ll start to feel a little better.

    3. Nancie*

      I’m so sorry. :(

      I’ve lost cats, rats and goldfish, and species never makes a difference in how I feel when they die. It’s always sad and upsetting.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Aww. I am sorry. My bunny died and I felt a similar thing, just a bunny but yet my little friend. It was even harder because I had made the decision when she was alive never to have another pet bunny. That made it worse.

      About eight years ago, I lost my beloved dog. I thought about that relationship and how positive it was. I went out and got another dog, of course, and the difference in the way I processed the grief was amazing. I realized that sometimes we can celebrate past relationships by building new ones. Not saying that it hurts less when you go get another pet, but it does help to reframe the story as honoring a past love pet by starting over with a new one. Pets do teach us about life/love/relationships, for sure.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I like to think of it as your beloved late pet wanting a new pet to have the love and happiness he/she did with you. It’s like your late dog is watching over you and the new pet and is happy that another dog is experiencing what he/she did – love and happiness.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Odd that you should mention that. My friend who helps me with my household repairs, was over having coffee one day. He felt a nose bump against his knee. He looked under the table to realize my dog was NOT there. Then he realized that the nose bump could be the spirit of my beloved previous dog, just checking in. Made me smile.

          1. Windchime*

            When my 19 year old cat died a few summers ago, I kept thinking that I saw him out of the corner of my eye for several months. He was just out of sight, just on the edges of my consciousness. I missed him so much but finally after about four months, I adopted another kitten at the urging of my daughter-in-law. Once new kitty was here, old kitty moved on and I didn’t see him on out of the corner of my eye any longer. I’m convinced that he was hanging around until he knew I would be OK.

    5. catsAreCool*

      Let yourself be sad about this. Be careful who you share this with though – there are going to be people who don’t get it, and that can really hurt, especially when the pain is raw. Be gentle with yourself.

    6. QualityControlFreak*

      I’m sorry for your loss. A friend is a friend. I’ve lost fish, cats, dogs, horses and people. I don’t think species matters. What mattered for me was length and closeness of association. Losing a long-time friend is very tough.

  14. Blue Anne*

    The husband saga continues; the last few days he has been posting things publicly on his Facebook strongly implying that I’m emotionally abusive. I stupidly engaged on one of them, basically saying there are two sides to every story and did he realise I could see these posts, and he blocked me on Facebook.

    We technically still live together. The plan was for me to move out on the 27th. I’m now packing up and moving out as quickly as I can given the constraint of either being there while he isn’t, or having a friend there with me.

    1. Anon for this*

      Sorry to hear that :( Divorce is The Worst, and that part before you move out is s****y and confusing. I’m really sorry you have to go through that, and you have the sympathies of at least one Random Person On The Internet.

      If it makes you feel any better, more people will see through his crap the more he complains and the less you engage. I know that’s incredibly hard to do, though :/

    2. Observer*

      Did claim you are mentally abusive because you won’t plan his birthday party?

      Don’t engage. It just doesn’t work. The people who pay attention and matter will see through the mess.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. And you should block him on Facebook too. You’re trying to have less of him in your life, and this is one area where you can control that.

      2. Blue Anne*

        He claims I’m emotionally abusive because the marriage wasn’t… about him?… enough. That when he was having problems, I saw it as no big deal, and when I was having problems it had to be THE HUGE THING. Which is amazing to me because I felt like the entire marriage revolved around supporting his emotional well-being, while mine was ignored (which was supposed to be acceptable because he recognized and admitted that he wasn’t good at comforting people. Thus negating any obligation to try.)

        But oh well. Jerk. I’m moving back to the USA. :)

    3. Ruffingit*

      TBH, I silently judge people who post stuff on the Internet about their marriages and how bad they are or their spouse is or whatever. It’s so trashy in so many ways. My point being that people will see through your husband’s nonsense. I’m sorry you have to deal with this though, it’s not easy.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. I wish I hadn’t engaged, for exactly this reason. I should’ve just let himself continue to shoot himself in the foot.

        Learned my lesson.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I wasn’t directing this at you, just for the record! It’s understandable that you would engage once because it’s human nature. My comment was more directed at your husband for even posting stuff on Facebook. It’s just crappy. Deal with your life issues offline!

          1. Isabel*

            I agree. If you feel embarrassed about people seeing what he wrote, just know, they will be judging him, not you.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s okay–you only had to say it once. My brother’s ex-wife kept saying awful things about him to their son, and my mother negated it by telling the kid calmly, ONE time, that there are two sides to every story, and you shouldn’t make up your mind about anything until you’ve heard both of them.

          I would gladly fly over there and kick him. Hard.

  15. Nancie*

    Woah, I think I own that same floor lamp! And I know I had the same cat tree, though it was finally utterly destroyed last year, after lasting about ten years.

  16. ScarletInTheLibrary*

    We know all about cover letters to apply for a job, but to put in an offer to purchase a house? Our market is very much a sellers market and we have heard plenty of stories of being out bid at the last second (especially with starter homes). Videos about home buying in our area, Reddit, and others that have bought lately mention submitting an offer letter telling the seller a bit about yourself. We are drawing a blank on what to emphasize. Sure we could talk about what we do career wise (because people like librarians right?), but mentioning my Clue collection seems like wasted space. Maybe we would personalize and mention things we like about the house, but we are at a loss of how to write these letters. I am guessing these should be kept to a page, but I don’t know.

    1. dragonzflame*

      I truly cannot think of anything other than offering more than someone else or having particularly favourable settlement terms. Maybe if it were old people who loved the house and you could emphasise raising a family there etc., but at the end of the day it’s not like finding a job where it’s about fit – it’s about who can bring the most money, preferably quickly.

      1. Sail On, Sailor*

        Totally agree with this. We received some letters when we sold our house, and one of them really touched our hearts. But at the end of the day, it was a business transaction and naturally we selected the highest bidder.

    2. Nancie*

      I know I saw that on HGTV once, Property Brothers, I think. It was a situation like dragonzflame mentioned: the owner and her late husband had lived there pretty much since day one, raised their kids there, etc. The prospective buyer wrote how much she and her husband loved the house and neighborhood, if they got the house she hoped they’d live there forever. I remember they got the house, I think they got it despite not having the highest offer.

      Still, I could see a short note working in most situations where it’s not a flipper or bank selling. Just something about why you like the house and are hoping to live there. Everything else being equal, it could tip the scales if the owner is hoping not to sell to a flipper or someone who’s planning to rent the place out.

      1. Treena*

        Yea, make it more about the life you plan to build in the house. It makes them feel warm and fuzzy knowing their house is going to make someone else happy.

    3. Thinking out loud*

      Making a connection helps sometimes. I’d say that you wanted to include a note about yourselves and why you love the house. Then include a sentence or two about yourselves (do say that you’re librarians!) and a few sentences about what you like about the house. If you’re planning to raise a family there, you could say that, although I definitely wouldn’t mention any significant changes you’re going to make to the house, since they love it as is. I think half a page is fine – I’d definitely keep it to a page or less.

    4. Jen*

      I don’t know where you are, but I’m in the greater Boston area which has been a sellers market for the past 12 or so months. We sold our house last spring the weekend it went on the market. We had 4 offers to choose from, and note that when we listed, we expected offers at 10-15% below asking (we thought asking was a little high).

      1. All cash, 10% under list
      2. Mortgage contingency, 5% under list
      3. Mortgage contingency, full asking
      4. Mortgage contingency, .05% over asking (a few thousand)

      We chose offer #3 because we found out they were recent transplants who moved for jobs but were currently living with her (local) parents dying to get out. #4 was a couple that was currently selling their own house. We wanted to have a little flexibility on close date, and thought the young couple dying to get out of mom & dads would be easier to work with.

      We had what our realtor called a “dream sale” – no negotiations at all after inspection (and there should have been- we even said “say yes to anything they want under 10k”!).

      Learning the life story of any of those bidders wouldn’t have been helpful; knowing basic facts was.

      1. dragonzflame*

        The flip side of this (you’ve just reminded me) that when we bought our house, prior to making the offer, we Googled the vendor on the S&P agreement – and found that she had owned the house for about 14 years, had rented it most of that time, and was an elite sportsperson who was just about to head overseas for several months’ of training. Based on that we decided a quick sale was probably a major priority so we managed to get all our ducks in a row in two very stressful days and made our best offer unconditional. We later found out that there were two other offers at the same time, higher than ours, but she went with ours because it wasn’t conditional on finance. Basic facts: helpful.

    5. Clever Name*

      We bought in a seller’s market. I told our agent I wasn’t going to be writing any letters. Our agent’s wife wrote one and we signed it. Lol Got the house we wanted, and there was at least one other bid.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      If you are buying from an older person (persons) this might help. The older people around me were primarily interested in knowing that the new owner would keep the house looking nice. So saying things like you are really interested in keeping a fresh coat of paint on the house or you can’t wait to adopt the plants you see in their yard would be good things to say. But only speak the truth, do not lie about the plants/painting if you hate-hate plants/painting. Be sincere in what you say. And don’t make promises, but rather express interest. “I have always loved Queen Anne architecture. It’s a dream come true to find your house.”

      When I sold my dad’s house, it was a shell that he never finished. The nicest thing that couple said was when the husband mentioned he was a carpenter. With that, I exhaled. I knew the house would be okay. And it is.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        In my area, people buy houses to knock them down and build a McMansion. We are always grateful when someone buys the house to buy the house and because they want to live in this area.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Yes – we were one of two offers on our house, and the other was almost certainly a construction company. The seller was the daughter of the late previous owners and we’re confident she chose us because she didn’t want her folks’ house to be a teardown.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Reminds me of what is happening in North Jersey. Postage stamp lot, with a monstrosity of a house. Kids can’t go out to play because there is no yard. No. Wait. Kids can’t go out to play because it’s not safe anymore.

    7. Sunshine Brite*

      We did one. The sellers accepted our offer versus a slightly better one because the other one was investors and this was the house that they grew up in. They really like the idea of a new family going in and not just selling it.

    8. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Thanks for the replies! It seems like a letter can make the buyer seem more like a person rather than a dollar amount. I think it will be a crap shoot on knowing what will strike a chord with the seller, but at least we can try. I do plan on focusing on the things we like about each house (and not mentioning things we disliked) and doing some research into the seller. We are childfree by choice so mentioning raising a family would strike the wrong tone, because it would be disingenuous. We don’t need a lot and not having kids means we are moe likely to stay in the place for decades.

      Our area has a lot of transplants and the vogue thing is to whine about the transplants. We have been in the area for 2.5 years, so we are not recent transplants. We have been renting and have some flexibility since our lease is up in six months. Depending on how it looks, we’ll sign a short-term lease to give us more time.

  17. Is this a thing?*

    Over the last couple of months I’ve noticed something. There are times when my intelligence seems to drop dramatically. At work I find myself staring at the computer thinking “Why is this so hard? I could do this yesterday”. It’s gotten to the point that my boss is commenting on the IQ drop.

    After a day or two it goes back to normal so I don’t think it’s organic. There’s some correlation with bad bouts of insomnia. The strongest correlation seems to be with my period, ie it happens either a day or two before or at the start. So is this a thing? Can your period temporarily reduce your IQ? If not what else should I consider?

    1. curious*

      Well, it won’t drop your IQ, but clearly your focus and concentration is being affected by something. Maybe lower iron? A difference in sugar intake? Of course getting less sleep will make it harder to concentrate. Trying keeping a food and sleep journal for a little while. If you can’t see any correlation, you might want to take that journal into your doctor.

      1. First Initial dot Last Name*

        +1 sleep and protein. When you notice that it’s getting too hard to think well, try having a snack of some sort, and some water. You may notice your brainbone perking right back up.

        I had a mathematics course in which I’d kind of bonk-out mid way through every day, I started taking snacks to munch when the professor started sounding like the adults in Charlie Brown’s Peanuts, within moments I’d be back to full listening/comprehension capacity.

        Later I was tested for learning disabilities and learned that I have dyscalculia, (which sounds like Dracula to me), and was able to be accommodated for my math-snacks.

    2. LizB*

      I’d be more inclined it link it to the insomnia, actually. Poor sleep can really do a number on your brain function. Does your insomnia get worse on your period? It’s also possible that you get anemic around your period, and anemia/iron deficiency can cause some brain fog.

      1. Is this a thing?*

        The insomnia links more to how I’m handling external events rather than what’s happening internally. I am working on dealing with the external but it’s hard when you’re not thinking as clearly.
        I’ve have anaemia on and off for a lot for most of my life and hadn’t noticed much of a difference. Maybe I’ve just become acclimatised to it. I restarted supplements two months ago to try and rule this out. Hopefully it will help.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      One of my favorite topics. I have watched people slow down just because of the crappy foods they are eating. At one point, I could tell what people in my work group had for breakfast by the way they functioned on the job. Lack of water will also interfere with mental processes, just like lack of sleep. But I have also seen scripts and OTCs mess up people’s thinking.

      My friend was handling a chemical for an aspect of doing his work. The next day he said, “I… can’t… pull my thoughts… together….” I knew instantly it was that chemical. (I told him to get away from the chemical. He did and felt better later on.)

      Pork pulls down my mental function. Oddly, I fed a pork chop to my dog and I noticed that he was less keen, less alert, etc.

      If you are having the problem around your period, you could just require extra rest or you may need some vitamin/mineral supplements. Not a doc, I just have seen some strange stuff here and there.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Yup. These two things get me every time. I’ve increased my water intake, and that kind of helps, but then I’m running to the bathroom every half hour :(

          1. Is this a thing?*

            Yeah the running to the bathroom thing can be an issue, especially if you tend to drink water later in the day. I’m tying to build a better habit of drinking more and earlier.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              I drink a ton of water in the afternoon since I drink coffee in the morning – this system probably needs to be tweaked since coffee is a diuretic.

    4. nep*

      When I haven’t gotten adequate sleep, my brain all but shuts down. I don’t know about a correlation w your menstrual cycle but certainly lack of sleep will affect your brain function.

    5. Camellia*

      The closest thing I know about is “fibro fog”, experienced by those of us with fibromyalgia. You might research that and see if you come up with something similar.

    6. Is this a thing?*

      Thanks everyone for the input.

      Basically I think this boils down to the fact that I need to take better care of myself. I know this but struggle to put it into practice. I’m hoping that by putting this out to internet strangers it will create a sense of accountability.

      So the to dos:
      * Improve sleeping patterns
      * Drink more water
      * Eat more real food and less junk
      * Get some exercise
      * Build more formal work skills
      * Stop procrastinating

      1. Isabel*

        I notice a profound difference in my mental clarity, concentration and creativity that depends specifically on the carbohydrate/fat/protein ration of my meals. I function much, much better with work if I eat a low (or no) carbohydrate breakfast. Eggs and avocado is one of my go-tos. If I am in a rush, I might grab a couple slices of swiss cheese and some nuts. Protein again at lunch. Fiber and fat make a difference as well. For example, I often eat full-fat greek yogurt and/or Lara bars for snacks. All of that is fine. But days I grab a muffin or sandwich, my IQ seems to drop about 25 points.

        I have ADHD. The protein effect is even more pronounced when I take my prescribed stimulant medication.

        I also have more brain power when I eat lightly. But my appetite varies wildly by time of month, season, and other factors. When I am taking care of myself and am used to smaller meal with more hours between them, I function best. But if I am in a hungrier phase, I remind myself to focus on protein.

        Due to the current Paleo trend I’ve noticed, to my delight, that there are a lot more quick, grabbable protein snacks in delis and groceries – even convenient stores. Starbucks makes little protein packs with nuts and cheese, and single portions of cheese are now often sold at counters.

      2. StillHealing*

        There could be something going on medically. I strongly suggest getting in to see your doctor for a full check up. Thyroid levels could be off. You might have a intolerance to certain foods. Dairy increases brain fog for me. A blood test showed a very high reaction to Casein. At the least, things can be ruled out by seeing your doctor.

        Sleep deprivation is definitely a big culprit as other have mentioned.

    7. NicoleK*

      Stress, illness, and lack of sleep affect my memory, concentration, and verbal communication. I also notice that the day before or day of my period, I always feel like I’m on the verge of coming down with an illness.

    8. Stephanie*

      I definitely have trouble concentrating right around my period. I also have bouts of insomnia some months as well. If your symptoms are severe enough that your boss notices, I would go get checked out and make sure there’s not something wonky around your period.

    9. SusanIvanova*

      “Can your period temporarily reduce your IQ?”

      Yes. There’s a great book about WWII espionage from the home base side of things: “Between Silk and Cyanide” by Leo Marks. When the field agents sent in radio reports in encoded Morse, he had a team of women decode it – which sometimes got complicated for reasons well worth reading about – and he noticed that his best coders would have days when they dropped from their usual 100%. Now, spotting patterns was his prime qualification for the job, so he spotted the 28-ish day cycle on those errors – but he was also a 22 year old only child with no girlfriend! So it took an awkward conversation with the woman in charge of the coders for him to work out exactly what was going on :)

      And I’ve noticed the same thing myself – I was doing one of those “learn a language by CD” sessions, with 15 minutes of review and then 15 minutes of new words. After a couple of weeks, I had a day where I sailed through the review, and then could not remember the new words 5 seconds after I heard them! But the next day I repeated that lesson and everything was fine. And then, 28-ish days later, the same thing happened. Yep, one day before my period, before any physical symptoms to give me a clue, my ability to retain new things drops, and I make mistakes like my spiritual ancestors did (software coding owes a lot to those women in WWII).

      So my friends and I call that day “Marks Syndrome”, since they name these things after the first person to document them :)

    10. mander*

      Not to be alarmist, but I’d get it checked out by a doctor if you can. It’s highly unlikely but it could indicate something more serious.

      One of my colleagues was having trouble with remembering things at work some days. It turned out that a brain tumor she’d had surgery for the previous year had come back and was missed on follow-up scans. She died a few months later, at age 27. :-(

    11. Phlox*

      Back when I biked for work, I would start bonking once in a while – when you realize you’re slow at decisions or making stupid choices because your body is out of fuel and you’ve just hit the wall. The instant transformation after eating something was dramatic – I started carrying around a jar of shelf stable peanut butter with me at work because when I needed food I needed a lot of dense calories with fats and sugars right then. So food/sleep can definitely impact your processing speed. Low iron also tends to impact me, especially when I’m on my period – so I try to eat a lot to f spinach and iron rich foods.

  18. LV Ladybug*

    I was hoping to get an out of the family perspective on some things. For medical/financial reasons, my husband and I bought a house with my in-laws. Most of the time we all get along very well, considering all of the medical issues that arise.
    I have 2 small children and I constantly butt heads with my MIL on things. The main thing that bothers me the most is when it comes to special events. When my first child was about a year old, she purchased a dress for a birthday party, without speaking to me about it, not even asking my opinion, checking to see if I had already purchased a dress, etc. I was a little upset and made it clear that I preferred to buy things like that. Of course she was butt-hurt over it, and my daughter wore the dress anyway (it was one of those hand-made ones that you can buy online, it was cute, but not what I wanted.)
    FWD to now, I have 2 girls and she is always upset when I “insist” on picking out and buying dresses for my girls for Christmas, their birthdays, Easter, etc. because she always purchases them for my nieces. I have told her over and over again that that is something I want to do, they are my kids.
    For this upcoming birthday, I had picked out the theme and started planning. My compromise was that I would find a dress I wanted and would give her the option to buy it for her grandchild. That has worked. However, she insists on telling me what else I “have to have” at the birthday parties that I am throwing. I am a crafty person and I always bake the cakes. I do the cakes for all the family’s parties and have come up with some pretty cute designs. I came home to find out that she bought one of those edible cake pictures for this current theme and was all proud of it. Problem is that I had already figured out what I wanted to do for a cake and it did not involve that. I was hot! She didn’t even ask me, just said “here you go.” I told my husband, who wants to keep peace in the house, who suggested that I make 2 cakes. What?! So after I calmed down, I decided that I would cut out the main characters from the picture and make my own cake. I would say that it broke or something that I had to make do with the pictures.
    I am just at a loss. My husband agrees that she crosses lines for things that I specifically said that I want to do myself, but says that I just need to deal with it. I told him that regardless of everyone’s harmony, that my feelings are hurt. She already got to raise her kids, she got to run their parties, it’s my turn and I don’t want that taken away from me. I just don’t know what to tell to an emotional woman who thinks she’s trying to help when I have told her that I don’t want her to and have tried to include her in other ways.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      It sounds like she’s feeling left out. I know you’ve said that you try to include her in other ways, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be working with her. I think part of it might be that she buys dresses for her other grandkids – she sees buying dresses as something special she does for her grandkids and a way to connect with them, so even if you include her in other ways, it still feels like she’s missing that connection. It might be specific – her not getting to do the things you mentioned – or it could be that she generally doesn’t feel as close with your kids as she does with the rest of her grandkids.

      Would it work to invite her along on a dress shopping trip? Or maybe, instead of picking out a specific dress and having her buy it, would you be open to picking out a handful of options or a style/color and letting her “choose” the final dress? Or if you’re not comfortable with letting her have input on dresses for Easter, birthdays, etc., would it work to have a “special” day where some sort of outing is planned with her and the kids (a trip to the zoo, etc.), and she gets to pick outfits for that? That might help with general “left out” feelings.

      As far as the cakes go… I could be reading it wrong, but it really sounds like she’s trying very hard to be part of the planning and help with the theme, and just isn’t going about it in a very helpful way. Do you think it would help to assign her another part of the planning, like decorations or invitations or something? Or to invite her to join you in the kitchen for the cake baking?

      1. LV Ladybug*

        I get all that, but she lives with us. She sees my kids all day, every day! She is more involved in their lives than in her others. (That could be part of it, maybe she feels a deeper connection to them.) But her other DIL is a pushover and accepts everything our MIL does, but that’s her family.
        I ask her to help with the prep, etc. But I do everything, and I want to. I design the invitations from scratch on publisher, I even make a lot of the decorations, etc. It’s what I want to do. I planned out all of my Showers, she knows that I am that kind of person. I think we are too much a like, she is that kind of person, too.
        She is more involved in the dresses. I will show her a couple, and guide her to the one I like and she usually agrees with me anyway, so I win there.
        She goes out all the time and will bring home bags full of clothes for the girls that she got on sale, “I just had to get these.” I happily accept them.
        I guess I wouldn’t be that upset about the cake if she would just talk to me first. I looked at where she got the edible picture and she happened to pick the ugliest one… if she came to me first, I would have probably said “Those are great, I would like that one.” And then she would be happy, I would be happy, then we move on. She didn’t give me a choice, she bought it and said “here”. Makes me feel like I don’t have a say, and the things I already bought for the cake I can’t use.

        1. TL -*

          Can she go shopping with the girls once a month or maybe have Grandma’s Tea Day where they get dressed up in nice outfits she buys them and go out to a fancier event, like a princess tea for kids or a kid-friendly restaurant with a fancy edge? (They have these in larger cities, I know.) That way she can buy them fancy dresses and make a fuss over them.

          Otherwise, you might want to give her a small part of the party to plan – balloons or games or something. A little compromise could go a long way here.

      2. BRR*

        Ah I missed the part about doing it for other grandkids. That’s probably harder to break because it’s grandmas thing. I would have your husband address how you (plural) will be doing things differently.

    2. BRR*

      You husband is wrong. As his mother, he needs to make sure she understands. You can thank her for offering the help (not helping but offering help) but spell out what needs to stop and have her repeat it or something like that. Other than that I’d probably just have my husband make it clear what ways she can h involved and stop caring about upsetting her. She buys a dress, the kids won’t wear it. She tells you what your party needs, you tell her you have everything planned and change the subject. It might be uncomfortable at first but if telling her to stop and including her in ways that YOU want didnt work, you have to get tough.

      Also your husband is not keeping peace because you’re upset. My husband is similar in that he would love to not have uncomfortable talks with his family. The best example I can think of is we moved 9.5 hours away (by car) from his parents after living two hours away. When we lived two hours away we always went to their place. After moving I made it clear to him that visiting now needs to be split. I took a very hard line to start though. I wouldn’t go with if we always were the ones to travel and I wouldn’t be happy if he went without me just to avoid having a mildly awkward conversation.

      1. LV Ladybug*

        This is only the tip of a very large iceberg that I have already “compromised” a lot with already. She made a very large purchase for one of my kids, don’t get me wrong I have grateful, but I wasn’t consulted. Of course it became a mass text argument about it. What I do like about that is that it is documented. I told her that it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, from now on she will need to speak to me about any large purchases in the future. She was butt-hurt about that for days. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, they are my children, after all. She sees it as “I’m allowed to spoil my grandkids.”
        It’s a constant battle on a lot of things, but I suck up a lot out of respect for her and her ways. But when it comes to how I raise my kids, I don’t put up with it. She just has to be the alpha, I just try to live with it.

        1. BRR*

          You’re in no way being unreasonable. These are reasonable boundaries and you are giving her opportunities. It doesn’t sound like its a possibility but it might help to not live together. No matter how many times you tell her these things (and again your husband needs to also tell her) you might just be SOL. I’d also stop feeling bad because she’s ignoring what you’ve made clear. I’m wondering if you need to be more consistent anout not sucking it up.

          1. LV Ladybug*

            We are already in the works of moving out, but since there is a house that will need to go up for sale, etc, it will take some time. My husband is using that as “we just have a year, let’s just make it as easy of a year as possible.” Which I understand and I’m trying to do. I would usually tell her that I am not using her cake picture and be very blunt about it, but I didn’t do that, out of respect for his wishes. I had to keep telling my husband. “A friend who doesn’t respect your wishes isn’t your friend.”
            I just can’t wait until we part ways and hope that our relationship doesn’t get worse before then.

            1. fposte*

              I know it’s not nearly as spoil-y fun for a grandparent, but can you request she channel her impulse into a 529 plan or something similar for the kids? It sounds like she’s spending money on stuff that isn’t really enhancing their lives anyway, and if you sell it right she could get into the idea of making this huge difference to her grandchildren’s possible futures that one more outgrowable dress never could.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Or alternately, let her buy the dress and then use the money you would have spent on the one you wanted on that education fund. If only for the next year until you can get out of dodge. If your kids are old enough to choose for themselves, maybe Grandma should go shopping with them and buy what they like for themselves. Everybody wins!

                I’m sure there must be people who read this that think I see Narcs everywhere but… read yourself some Raised By Narcissists on Reddit. What you’ve described is classic of the kind of things many parents (mostly women) complain about — the MIL’s inability to listen about who is actually raising the kids. The husbands (generally, but not always) don’t want to upset the apple cart because it is his mother, the wives are asked to “play nice” and make his mother happy when he should be telling his mother that she is not in charge of what HIS children get to do/have. Because she isn’t going to listen to you. You’re only going to come off as the petty, nagging, ungrateful bitch who doesn’t want her kids to have a relationship with their Grandma. Even though what you are asking is completely reasonable.

        2. Irishgal*

          The spoiling argument only works for when the adult only sees the kids on an occasional basis IMHO. Being spoilt by someone who lives with them is a whole other perspective. I know other advice columnists say that if it gets to the stage your wishes are being ignored you react with action e.g. she can continue to buy all the dresses she wants but you get to decide what your daughters wear on the day in question, she buys an inappropriate gift you return it and put money towards something else. You are calm and non defensive about this e.g. “yes it is a lovely dress and it will look very nice on her but today she is wearing x”.

          I was very involved with my nephew when he was first born as my sis is a lot younger and a single parent so for a long time I supported practically and financially more than I guess would be normal. I was used to “just buying stuff” when I wanted but when she met her partner and they became a family I had to learn to step back and now I run stuff past them before I go to buy anything and sometimes it’s a no and I am a tad miffed cos I will lose out on the “spoiling” and then I cop my self on and move on. My nephew won’t remember who bought what etc … but he will remember me being there every xmas.

      2. fposte*

        Absolutely agree. When your husband says “keeping the peace,” he means “not disagreeing with his mother, regardless of what happens to his wife.” Your husband needs to back you up here, and I’d be tempted to ask him why it’s not okay to upset his mother but it is okay to upset his wife.

        On the other hand, I do agree with Build Me Up that it would be good to find things to cede to her entirely, and I’d add that’s whether the things she picks are ugly or not. Your MIL and your family relationships are more important than your doing or choosing every single thing for the party, and the advantage of assigning her the cake is that the thing is gone in a split second.

        So give her a thing that’s hers, and if she buys a dress without telling you as well, you put your kid in the one you want and then brightly say “Oh, I’d already bought her one, since we were planning on you doing the cake; I’m sure we’ll find another occasion for your lovely outfit.” And let the chips fall where they may, and tell your husband to feel free to sweep ’em up.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah, I’m starting to think, “keeping the peace” ought to mean him telling his mom that she needs to stop upsetting his wife and the mother of his children, because it makes things uncomfortable, so Mom needs to stop in order to keep the peace.

          it just always works out that the person with the legitimate gripe is the one who is asked to “keep the peace.”

          There isn’t any peace–I might be making that point. There isn’t any peace, I am ALREADY mad.

          I vote for just putting the cake int he basement or the garage, and making your own, and her cake just doesn’t get used. Too bad it’s wasted–she should have known that you were making the cake, you always do, and in the future she should ask. Ditto the dresses, etc.

          Or, make your own cake, and bring her out last.

    3. Elkay*

      I recommend using the phrase “Oh, I wish you’d asked…” followed by the reason her action will be ignored e.g. I already have a dress for her, I’ve already got started on the cake, we told her she can’t have a tiny donkey.

    4. Artemesia*

      Compromise on this like ‘two cakes’ is to yield your prerogatives as a mother. I think a grandmother who doesn’t allow you the pleasure of your firsts as a mother should be reined in. I am a grandmother and it is one of the things I am sensitive to. I always did the fancy cakes for my kids — it was a special thing. Well I’d love to do those for my granddaughter — but her Mom does that and loves to and rightly so.

      I would hold a firm line on being your daughter’s mother and not allowing her to usurp your role. I suspect that this comes out in other ways in the household and watch that too.

      Let me suggest a way to compromise without giving up your prerogatives as a mother. Can you make one day a week a special Grandma time where she plans and does something special with her grandchild? I have my granddaughter one evening a week — once it was after day care, not it is after school. We cook most weeks; sometimes we do a craft project; sometimes we do somewhere. If your MIL had one afternoon a week to plan a special project with your kid/kids it would allow her that specialness and creativity without poaching on your patch. Have a talk with her where you make it clear that you KNOW she loves doing special things with the kids but that it is your turn to be Mom now and plan the birthday parties — and then suggest this special grandma time. Good luck. Sad that she is so insensitive.

  19. regina phalange*

    Anybody have any tips for dealing with claustrophobia? It happens to me on planes and trains and I have a very distinct physical reaction. I’m fine as long as we’re moving. But if we stop moving and just sit there, I start to panic. I also don’t do well in really crowded trains that go underground (think NYC or Chicago). I usually manage to keep my panic internal, but it is very stressful feeling confined and not in control of my surroundings. Would love suggestions as to how to best deal with the panic/nausea/physical reaction.

    1. LV Ladybug*

      I get that way, esp when the plane lands and we just sit there. Mine prob isn’t that bad, but I usually try to listen to music or watch a movie/video on my phone/tablet. It helps keep me distracted. I am more focused on that rather than tapping my foot insistently waiting for the doors to open.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m terribly claustrophobic, though I’m ok on planes. The subway, though, causes some big issues for me. I lived in NYC for 10 years and started having a major problem with crowded trains about 2 years in. I simply avoided those trains, which often meant waiting a loooong time for a train in the morning. When I felt panicked– often when the train was stalled– I would do whatever I could to get cooler. Sometimes this was drinking water, sometimes it was removing a sweater or a scarf. My therapist once suggested keeping an elastic hair tie on my wrist and snapping it when I felt like that, because it would take my mind off my reaction (I never tried that, but I saw people who did).

      Creating my own environment was a huge help. Listening to music and reading at the same time, for instance. I kept a few movies on my iPod– good, familiar ones that were guaranteed to put me in a good mood– and watched those when things got really bad. For me, it was all about re-focusing, but I had to focus on something familiar.

      1. regina phalange*

        Thanks for the tips. My therapist also recommended that I think about times when I have been stalled on a plane or train, pre-claustrophobia, and how I made it through unfazed and I was never REALLY trapped. He also told me, and I have read elsewhere, that I can ask my doctor to prescribe me something to keep with me when I travel. Often times knowing you have the option to take something is comfort enough and people end up not needing the pills. I might try that route, especially for long flights as I do love to travel, just hate the process of getting to places when it involves being trapped in a steel tube.

    3. Snazzy Hat*

      I hope I’m not too late for this. Allegedly the scent of apples can really help with attacks, which can be really convenient if you’re in a cramped place where eating is okay. No one will think twice if you suddenly pull a small sandwich bag of apple slices out of your purse/knapsack. In other situations, envisioning an open area is a good start. I actually brought someone else’s claustrophobia attack to a grinding halt once. I was washing my hands in the ladies’ room at a restaurant, and a woman went into a stall and started nervously muttering things like “too small” and “no room”. I calmly, yet loudly enough to get her attention, said, “picture a large grassy field with a mountain way off in the distance.” After a few seconds of silence, the woman replied, “thanks”.

      I tend to get anxiety attacks from having my personal space encroached upon, especially when waiting in line. I’ve taken to practicing ballet moves. Nothing too extravagant; just foot and hand positions, things like that.

  20. grace*

    So, my ex boyfriend is getting married next month. The whole time we dated (6 years) he told me he never wanted to get married. I finally hit my limit and took a job opportunity 2000 miles away to distance myself. While we no longer talk and it’s not like I want him back, I am having a really hard time processing this, despite knowing I am better off without him. Not sure how to deal with this conflict!!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think it’s part of being human to have to conflicting emotions at the same time. I do know that the harder we fight a particular emotion the worse it gets.

      How about giving equal weight to both emotions? “I am having a hard time processing this” is on the same level as “I am better off without him”. What this means is that you do not scold yourself for either emotion, you just acknowledge it. “Yep, I am, indeed, having a hard time processing this.” Then, a moment later, “Yep. I am better off without him, this is also true.”

      Emotions are not like actions. If you took action on these mixed emotions, I’d be worried. ;) However emotions are not the same as actions. They are just feelings and you are entitled to whatever mixed bunch of feelings you have. Don’t get bogged down in being confused or analyze it all. Just simply acknowledge to yourself “Yep. I feel x. Yep. I feel y.”

      1. TootsNYC*

        I like this–it’s totally OK to say, “I’m bummed,” and “I’m better off without him.”

        I think it’s better to not fight emotions. Even when you know they’re actually unreasonable–don’t fight them. Just let them wash over you.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      That sort of happened to me, and it sucks. I’m sorry :(

      I have no words, really, to help you deal with it since I didn’t so much deal with it when I went through it, rather, I just had a breakdown and then went back to therapy. But after awhile, it hurt less. I had to remind myself of all the positive things I had going on in my life in order to not feel like I was missing out on something by not being married to a guy who didn’t treat me that well to begin with. In fact, I made a list of all the awful things he’d ever done to me and would read it every time I felt sad to snap myself out of it. That list helped me realize he was taken out of my life for a reason and I was better off. Maybe doing something like that will help you.

      1. Lindsay J*


        I have my old livejournal, and in it I documented pretty much every fight and every other terrible incident I had with my ex.

        When I finally broke up with him it was nice to have tangible evidence that I was unhappy when I was with him and that I had been for years.

        When I found out that he had started seeing a new person, and was doing all the things with her that he never did with me (taking her out on dates, going on trips, etc) it was again nice to be able to look back on the journal and see that I was unhappy with him for more reasons than that he didn’t like going to restaurants.

        It also helped to tell myself, “this is not the *name* you were in a relationship with.” Whether it was because he had genuinely changed, or if it was because he was pretending to be someone he was not in order to woo this new girl was immaterial. It has nothing to do with whether she was “better” or “more deserving” of dates than I was, and everything to do with the circumstances being different and him being different; heck maybe me breaking up with him had been the wake up call that he needed to realize that most people wouldn’t be happy with him as a partner if he continued acting the way he acted with me.

        It also helped that I am much happier and healthier as a person without him, and that breaking up with him freed me up to find my current boyfriend, who is wonderful in every way and with whom I have a much happier, empowering, and supportive relationship than would be possible with my ex.

    3. NicoleK*

      It will get better….one day at a time. Journaling helps me when I need to process complicated feelings such as this.

    4. LV Ladybug*

      I’m sorry, I know that feeling, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling. I always thought of that line from When Harry Met Sally: “All this time I thought he didn’t want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me.” It used to kill me. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
      You need to realize that it isn’t about you, it’s about him. Be glad that he didn’t want to get married and then you had made a mistake. It will take some time, but the feeling will go away.

    5. Artemesia*

      My middle aged son recently married. Always broke up when his girlfriends wanted to marry and then he met her. I had a colleague years ago who was a committed bachelor who fell hard and wanted to marry but alas she chose someone else. I have known half a dozen men who had long term girlfriends and never wanted to marry, finally broke up or she left and voila they were married within the year. Worse yet when it is ‘I never want kids.’ These guys often split from their wives who wanted kids when the wives are in their 40s and time has passed them by and then start families with younger women; often these ‘never wanted kids’ guys act as if they invented fatherhood while their bitter ex wife gets to hear about how great fatherhood is.

      I think ‘I never want to marry’ ALWAYS means ‘I don’t want to marry you.’ And if the relationship has been sustained for a while and this is his stance, it is time to move on as you very intelligently did. He didn’t want to marry you.

      Guys who don’t want to marry you are not guys you want to marry really. How fun is to be married to a guy who isn’t wild about you? He was a user at heart; you should be thrilled that you had the very good sense to move 2000 miles where you are out of his orbit and have a shot at your own good life.

      1. grace*

        thank you. It is hard to realize a person you loved didn’t love you back. I do take comfort in the fact that word on the street (mutual friends) is that he STILL doesn’t want to get married but is doing it anyway. Bullet dodged for sure.

        1. catsAreCool*

          “he STILL doesn’t want to get married but is doing it anyway.” Yikes. I’d rather be single than have to push someone into marrying me.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Uh yeah… what Cats said. I don’t know what this woman did to “trap” him, but she’s going to regret marrying this guy. If he doesn’t just leave her at the altar. Marry in haste, repent in Divorce Court.

            About a decade ago, I read an article somewhere about how when men decide they want to get married, they do so within 18 months, regardless of whether they were in a relationship or not at the time they made the decision. I wish I had kept that because I can never find it, Google always disappoints me.

            I don’t think it was about you, Grace. He didn’t want to be married. He was perfectly fine with being with you for as long as he was without that commitment for whatever reasons. You wanted different things and had different priorities/goals which meant you weren’t really a match for each other. You did what you needed to do for yourself and that was be free to find someone who would be willing to commit to you. You weren’t going to get that with him, and if that was what you wanted, then there was no point in staying any longer.

            I heard what I consider to be a horrible story recently. A woman converted to Islam a couple of years ago because she wanted to get married and she had heard that dating wasn’t really a thing in Islam, that people got married really quickly. She’s getting married to another Muslim this summer, so she achieving her “goal” but she hasn’t told her racist father that she’s now a Muslim and she’s marrying someone who is not white. Yup, I predict success all around for this union. O.o

            Don’t make “marriage” a goal to be ticked off the list. Finding the right person for you is so much more important, marriage should just be icing on the cake of that, not the whole cake.

            1. grace*

              You know, your leave her at the alter comment made me laugh (in an ironic way) because I always figured if he asked me that is exactly what would happen to me – he’d be like j/k, not showing up, on our wedding day. typing this, realizing I would not put it past him, then and now, makes me glad I am not her.

            2. Lindsay J*

              I read a similar article. I think the one I read took some of its lexicon from “Sex in the City” as quotes from the show are all I get when I search.

              It basically said that when men reach the point in their life where they want to marry they turn their light on and start searching for a suitable wife (and that usually this happens once they feel established in their career and financially secure).

              It doesn’t matter if they meet the perfect person before this; they’re not in marriage mode yet so they won’t marry them.

              And once they are in marriage mode, they will find a mate to settle down with rather quickly; it’s not like they are going to settle down with the first person who comes their way, but they start looking for someone who is “marriage material” and once they find someone who fits their criteria they are quick to enter in a relationship leading towards marriage rather than gambling on the idea that there is someone possibly more compatible out there.

              The whole idea makes some sense to me. Every guy I have met/dated in my adult life is much more concerned with achieving the trappings of adult life before considering marriage than I have been; my view has always been that if I love someone, why does it matter if we live in a tiny apartment or a house, or if we’re working “career track” jobs or not? But guys have always made it clear that they need to feel capable of “providing for” us (even though I make enough to sustain myself) before marriage is a consideration.

              I also personally believe that there are tons of people I could have a happy marriage/life with out there, and so who I ultimately wind up is a combination of circumstance and the two of us making the choice to spend our lives together and doing the (generally emotional) work we need to do to make that possible, and this idea kind of plays into it.

        2. Artemesia*

          I think we have all been there. I was wildly in love with the guy who was the committed bachelor and then had his own heart broken when the girl of his dreams married someone else. I have been married for over 40 years to a man who still things meeting me was his lucky day; there is much to recommend this. Life is long and you need someone in your corner who wants to be there.

    6. Soupspoon McGee*

      I had this effect on men. I’d date them and hope to get married, we’d break up or he’d just disappear, and within a year they’d be married to someone else (in three cases, to someone they’d just met; in another, to his ex-wife). My aunt has had the same experience dating in her 70’s.

      I’m glad I didn’t marry any of them. One guy was really sweet, and we did love each other, but we were just not right for each other. One guy was a flake. Another was a thoughtless jerk.

      Most importantly, moving on with someone else doesn’t negate the love and happiness you felt together. It’s okay to acknowledge you loved him, and maybe he loved you the best he was able, though it fell short. You’re worthy of someone feels and expresses love in ways that surpass what you’ve experienced so far.

    7. EvilQueenRegina*

      When I first heard Daniel the ex was engaged, my reaction was pretty similar. By that time I wanted nothing more to do with him, but it was still hard when I first found out. I ended up dealing with it by writing a long letter to him getting all my feelings out, mainly about why I was better off without him, and then ripping it up. It helped at the time.

      I’ve moved on from him now, if only my family would quit Googling the fool….

      1. wildfirefly12*

        Loved What They Do In The Shadows. Very well done. Also, check out Flight of the Conchords, if that isn’t how you know him. And if you do like Flight of the Conchords, Bret McKenzie plays in my favorite movie, Austenland as well.

      2. Allison Mary*

        Wasn’t it called “What We Do In The Shadows”? I could be wrong.

        But yes, HILARIOUS movie.

    1. Elkay*

      I recommend Short Poppies in the open thread last week. It’s Rhys Darby and Jemaine Clement directed one episode. It’s on Netflix.

    1. fposte*

      I heard it’s a week or so from a friend who had it. I don’t know why they don’t tell people about this, but it seems like they don’t.

      1. Lulu*

        Hey MJ, been wondering how it went for you! After mine, it took about a week for the stiffness in my back to come right and for the lightheaded feeling to go entirely. My doctor did warn me to expect the lightheadedness but not the stiffness, but it still took me a bit by surprise. Hope you start to feel better soon :)

    2. Joe*

      Take mine with a grain of salt because I had a lumbar puncture after a concussion, but it is was about a 2 weeks.

  21. Sunflower*

    Is anyone else bad at decorating? I have no problem picking out things I like but I am really bad at the whole ‘tying everything together’ and picking things that go together aspect. I can’t afford an interior decorator but also- i LOVE the idea of decorating. I love looking for pieces but most of the time I find something I like then realize nope this doesn’t match or go with anything. Me thinks I will just need to get used to buying things and then realizing they don’t work when I bring them home. I live in a (tiny)studio so the entire place is centralized around my bed spread which is a Caribbean blue print. I LOVE it but it seems like it might be easier if my duvet was white.

    Any other people who are just not good at this kind of stuff, what did you do to decorate your place? Blogs/Online resources to look for help? I’ve been spending a lot of time on Apartment Therapy.

    1. Thinking out loud*

      I was really bad, but I’m trying to learn. Add with clothes, I’ve realized that I can’t just buy what I want if it won’t go with anything else. For each room, I’ve found that I do the best if I select one item that has three or four colors in it and then coordinate the room around that. So your bedspread might be a good place to start – make everything else in the room either a color that’s in the spread or a neutral color (usually white, tan, gray, or black) out a combination. (I have a favorite blue and red blanket in one room; the room also has a tan sofa, blue and white striped chairs, blue and white plaid pillows, and red pillows.) To make sure the colors with, I either keep a swatch of the main fabric with me or I have to be willing to return stuff.

      1. Editor*

        If you want to match a color and don’t have a swatch, go to a place that sells paint and take home some paint chips that look close. Carry the matching chip in your wallet and use it when you need it. Look at the wood stains if you want to get wood furniture that’s similar in color and cut the color sample out of the brochure.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yep. Terrible at it. I see Apartment Therapy and just am like “Ha, that looks so nice. I will never do that. Throw pillows are ambitious enough.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I get frustrated because those apartments/ homes are all decorated nicely–and the walls, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. are not crap or falling apart like my house. You can’t polish a turd. :(

    3. Gingerbread*

      I will just do a Google search for whatever central piece I want to work around and take ideas from there. In my case, I have a red Persian rug in my living room and needed help deciding what color couch to buy. Searching Google saves time too so you don’t have to visit a bunch of different websites.

    4. Soupspoon McGee*

      Pick three colors you love. One is the main color, another the supporting color, and the third is the accent. There are a lot of great sources online to put together a color pallette. You can go for harmony and pick lavenders, blues and greens that complement the bedspread, or you can go with contrast, like reds or yellows.

      One cheap, easy way to stick to your theme is to get paint sampler papers in a ton of colors that you like, then take them home and start narrowing. Match one to the bedspread, then find others that you like, that work with what you love, and that work in the light you have. Once you’ve narrowed it down, take that with you when you shop.

    5. Treena*

      While I can’t comment on exactly how “bad” you are at decorating, I’m not a fan of the “decorated” look. While you’re right in that you can’t just buy random things that don’t work, I also don’t feel the need to match everything. I’m sure a lot of people would say I’m “bad” at decorating, but if it makes you happy, then it’s right.

      A couple of things I do/did:

      I eliminated black. I used to have black be my neutral color. Black bookshelves, black TV stands, etc. And then I realized I hated black. So I switched to brown/wood-only. Slowly, I would replace things that didn’t work with my new vision. My last house was hardwood floors with a lot of persian rugs, wood furniture, leather seating, and grey textiles. Very mellow with pops of burgundy and teal blue. On paper, it sounds horrible but I think it worked.

      6 months ago, we moved into a furnished place that had a completely different look. Beige tile throughout, lots of white, amazing light, white/birch furniture, very modern looking. Not my style at all, but we embraced it and added a giant birch shelving unit with white baskets, silver/beige lamps, and kept our grey textiles and pops of color the same from the old place. We’re in the process of moving out now, but if we were staying, honestly there are maybe 3 little things I would swap out.

    6. Graciosa*

      I’m actually pretty good at it, but something struck me about your post. You have a bright blue bedspread you love but you’re thinking it should have been white. You choose things you love, but worry about them going together.

      I think you should stop worrying and enjoy them.

      To quote William Morris, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

      If *you* find it beautiful, that’s a good enough reason to have it.

      Your home should look like *you* and not a magazine spread. If you love your bright blue bedspread, then enjoy it. I read once of a man who had an airplane propeller above his mantel instead of a painting – he loved it, and so did his visitors. It made his home look like *him* rather than a generic one suitable for his position.

      If there are specific things that are troubling you (like what color to paint the alcove) then ask for help. You probably know people who are “good” at decorating and would be flattered to be asked, and there are lots of reference books available even if you never go to a decorator. There are also decorators who will do short consultations so you pay by the hour for expert advice on things like furniture arrangement or paint colors.

      But if you walk into your home and smile when you look at the bedspread, you have already decorated your home very well indeed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I love to look at magazine pictures of professionally decorated rooms. I drool.
        But in real life- day-to-day living, I find them sterile and devoid of warmth or personality.

        I see homes belonging to stars on the internet. I kind of feel sorry for them. They own items on the basis of how well they color coordinate with the room. (Did you ever see the libraries that only have books with blue binding? The books go with the room. I cannot process this.) I have painted my bedroom and I have not put up my knickknacks and such yet. It looks like a motel room, it could be anyone’s room any place on earth. It’s very easy to clean, I will say that much.

      2. Sunflower*

        You are so right. I totally agree. My bedspread makes me so happy and I don’t want to get rid of it. I like everyone’s ideas of narrowing it down to a few colors so I think I’m gonna stick with almost all white, light grey and some navy blue to accent the bed spread. And of course I’ll throw in a few other random pieces that I find that I love.

    7. First Initial dot Last Name*

      Are you really terrible at decorating, or is it that you live in a tiny space and the focal point is your bed?

      Living with all of your belongings in one room is tough to begin with. What are you doing to relieve yourself of clutter, so your space feels harmonious? If you have a bunch of stuff you love and want to show it off, then make all of your mundane-storage solutions kind of disappear, make them serve double duty, using trunks, storage ottomans, color coordinated boxes in a neutral tone, (I have different boxes covered in the same fabric), shelves that attache to the wall, (so they’re not bulky boxy furniture in a small place). Really simple, easy and affordable solutions can make the objects you love sing together in a small space without it being decoratey, your taste is what will tie it all together.

      Now if you don’t have well defined taste that’s another matter all together and may take some trial and error. If your knick knacks are things you picked off the street while on acid, and your trying to make them work with souvenirs from your world travels, well, maybe paring some things down might jump to the top of your decorating to-do list. However weirdo things can live on the same shelf, for example I have a couple of antique cloisonne objects on the same shelf as a vintage Muppets lunch box and it works because of the colors. Actually maybe you shouldn’t take my suggestion, I have some bonkers stuff groups together, a big jar of glitter next to a jar of sea shells, next to my paint brushes :-/ yeah never mind.

  22. Anon E Mous*

    Deleted because work-related (but it’s a fascinating question — please save for the work-related open thread on Friday).

  23. Anon Right Now*

    I have a question about how people become more expressive? Last week, some “friends” of mine ditched me on “Galentine’s Day.” (Seriously, this is such middle school behavior that I don’t even really know how to write about it. We’re in our late-20’s, early 30’s.)

    They made plans with me to hang out, then, I guess, regretted it. So they ignored all of my texts about when to meet up, made secret plans, and then went out without me…then posted all over Facebook with selfies of the evening “We’re BFFs!! LOVE THESE BITCHES!!!”. When I told them how hurtful it was, they told me that I was an extremely negative person and they just “wanted to actually have fun.” I know that I’ve had issues with depression in the past, but I’ve really gotten a lot better after a bunch of therapy.

    It seems sometimes that the two people who orchestrated this whole thing look for reasons to get annoyed with me. For example, that weekend, it was 7 degrees outside–before windchill. Fahrenheit. And she was walking, not driving. She of them comes out wearing a micro miniskirt and thin tights. I told her that she looked hot, but then said, “You know it’s 7 degrees out, right?” She got really annoyed with me. Later, she said that this was an example of how I’m a negative person…she knew it was cold outside and didn’t care; she just wanted to look hot and have fun and I put a damper on her evening by criticizing what she was wearing. To me, I was being a concerned friend. She told me that if I was going to say something like that, I should have said it like, “Heeyy, girrrrrl!!! You know it’s really frickin cold, right?!?!” But that’s just not me.

    I think that part of it is that we’re just very different people and they did a mean-girl thing to me, and it’s definitely time to ditch these people from my life–they’re not actually my friends, so good riddance. I have lots of other friends who don’t think that life is one giant high school popularity contest.

    However, I’ve gotten criticisms like that in the past from several different people, and I think that might be a valid thing to work on. They tend to take everything I say as way more negatively than I intend it. I think part of it is that I live in my head a lot. I think I have a heavy “resting bitch face” as my neutral expression and “resting murder face” as my “I’m concentrating/thinking really hard expression.” I also think that my voice is kind of monotone/flat, so something that I mean to come out as neutral-positive comes out as negative. Has anyone ever “retrained” their voice and face to be…happier? More expressive? I dunno. I don’t want to mess up relationships with people in the future.

    1. nep*

      My initial thoughts — True friends won’t want you to ‘retrain’ or change anything. Be you. Embrace you. Be with people who accept and dig you — warts and resting bitch face and all.

    2. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I have similar problems. I’ve come to accept that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I do find it hard to make friends, but I don’t have to put up with that kind of drama.

    3. wildfirefly12*

      Screw that. Be yourself. Find better people to be around.

      I can totally relate to your situation, though. I live in a super small, rural town. Not only are people my age in small supply, but people my age, who are actually interested in similar things? Non-existant. I tried the “change myself to fit in better with everyone else” thing and it actually backfired. People could sense I wasn’t being genuine and actually tended to not like hanging out with me anyway. So not only was it a wasted effort, but I spent three years trying so hard to be someone I wasn’t, I’m now having to refigure out who I actually am.

      It may mean you have to go through a season of loneliness while you find a group that doesn’t want to change you, but I’m learning those seasons can actually be quite rewarding.

    4. NicoleK*

      When the people you care about make poor choices, it’s hard to hold back our opinions, disapproval, and etc. But they’re adults. The more you express your thoughts, they may see it as disapproval or judgmental even if that’s not your intention. In the example that you provided, your friend is an adult and she has every right to freeze her tush off. So I would suggest working on holding your tongue (unless friend is doing something that may cause serious bodily harm).

    5. fposte*

      It sounds like it’s time for you and those friends to part. I don’t know how old you are, but it’s pretty common for people in the twenties and even early thirties to drift from the friends they acquired in early adulthood.

      If you think there’s something in this worth considering, I’d say it’s not worth fussing about your face or your intonation; it’s a lot easier just to consider what it is you say. “You know it’s 7 degrees out, right?” is innocuous in isolation, but it’s the kind of thing that parents often say to their adult children and that makes their adult children want to murder them, so if this is part of a pattern of you pointing out to your friends that something might go wrong or that there’s a downside, maybe consider that they’ll figure out it’s cold on their own and keep that thought to yourself. (I say this as a recovering nay-sayer myself.) And watch yourself for a little bit to make sure you say positive stuff with some frequency and on its own, not just as an intro to something else.

      It’s quite possible I’m not describing you and this wouldn’t be useful, but if you observe yourself for a little bit that might give you either reassurance that you’re fine or signs of what you might want to tweak a little. In my experience, that kind of tweaking isn’t uncommon; I’ll realize I’ve been hard on people for a while, or what I thought was a helpful behavior was distracting, or what I thought was an improved communication style wasn’t. And then I try a different way. While I agree with other commenters that these people sound pretty dismissible, I think you can try a little behavioral restyle without losing the you-ness of you–as long it’s what you genuinely want to do.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My post vanished. Am trying again.
        That parent voice.

        I had to do a lot of care taking while I was growing up. A question like, “Got your coat?” was an ordinary thing for me to ask. My friends told me I was odd. No, I was doing what I had become acclimated to doing, it was necessary in my life.

        The second layer (because this stuff always has another layer) was that I wished someone cared enough about me to ask me if I had my coat. I had to take a look at this.
        Just because I value X does not mean everyone else values X. I had to think about this for a bit. I realized that my life was very different from my friends. They were in bars meeting guys and I was spoon feeding my mother. No one is at fault here- it’s just circumstances, differences in people.

        You may find that you need to move on and look for people similar to you. Or you may find that you can make a few adjustments and all is well.

        1. Anon Right Now*

          I’m really sorry that you went through all of that! I echo you in a lot of what you say…there are the top causes (my friends an I don’t match anymore) and the underlying causes (I’ve always felt more responsible for myself and others than my care-free friends did). You and I are different because didn’t *have* to take care of people like you did–and I’m sorry that you had to go through that. Personally, I grew up with my older brother who had extreme ADHD. Like, peeing on people in halls, hitting them, lighting woods on fire, threatening them with weapons, bouncing off of walls ADHD (and, not gonna lie, most of this was done to me by him, among other horrible things.)

          I thought that the only way I could be loved by my parents was to be the responsible, sweet child who never did anything wrong. Well, it made everything that I did that was slightly wrong punishable, while still ensuring that he got all the attention. Awesome. Now I’m realizing that I’ve felt responsible for everything all my life and could only really have *fun* with, like, art and literature.

          I liked this group of friends for a while because it was my mindless frat/sorority phase with mindless frat/sorority people. I never when through that in high school, college, or grad school! Also, these people were a built-in friend group I found through roommates–and when you’re in a new city and people want to invite you to all the parties, yes! I’m going to go!

          But now that I am better established, have other friends, and I’m older than all these people, I’m just not feeling it anymore. I’m a highly pragmatic person who wears comfy shoes EVERYWHERE and screw you if you think I’m going to freeze my ass off to squeeze into a dress. So I not only have nothing in common with them, but I’m also a lot less likely to put up with crap than I have before. We’re all just at a point where we realize we’re looking for different things in friends. It sucks to go through, but I don’t regret it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            He peed on you????
            And you had no or little power to stop it from happening. omg. Wow.

            I am sorry you went through this and for so many years.

            But I love your comfy shoes, I do the same thing. Yep, it really sucks to go through these drifts in relationships. At least we understand why it is happening and sometimes that is a good as good gets. Like you are saying, I regret the sad things that happen to people around me and, of course, I regret my own poor choices. The good side is that I have learned so much and I understand the importance of learning more. I am grateful for this last part.

    6. Ruffingit*

      It may be that you and these friends just aren’t compatible anymore. However, it could also be that there is a valid issue here to be considered. If several different people are giving you the same feedback, it’s time to look at it.

      Your comment about it being 7 degrees is the kind of thing that most people are not going to take well. Your friend is an adult and went to a lot of trouble it would seem to look great for the night and you basically gave her a “parental concern” comment. I can see how that would be annoying. It’s best to assume that adults know the weather and what they should be wearing or not and just compliment the outfit and leave it at that.

    7. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with agree with RuffingIt. Ditching you was not a decent way to behave, and it may be time to move on.

      On the other hand, I think that there is a real issue here, that could easily continue to affect your relationships. The problem that I am see is not the tone of voice etc. but your choice of response in general. When you ask people if the know Glaringly Obvious Thing, most people will get annoyed. It’s not an excuse. Personally, there is a real chance that I would have responded with “Gee I thought I was in Hawaii” or something like that. Even “Wow, you look great, but is it worth being so cold?” can be very hard to pull off, and annoy people people because of how much it’s an echo of their parents.

      If you want to have a chance at having people recognize that you’re just trying to express friendly concern here are some things to think about before you comment on people’s choices. 1. Don’t point out something that is glaringly obvious. Even worse is *asking* someone if they are aware of this glaringly obvious fact. It comes off as extremely condescending, at best, and quite likely as criticism. 2. Avoid coming off as parental. If you find yourself echoing your parents, your friends’ parents or just a general parental tone, back off. There is a place for that in some relationships, but almost never among contemporary friends. 3. Think about what you expect to accomplish with your comment. In this case, what exactly did you expect to accomplish? Even if you have expressed it more straightforwardly (eg “I hope you don’t get sick from the cold”), the question stands.

      1. Tea Pot Dome*

        Your friends don’t sound like people I’d want to hang out with, even if I were 25 years younger. Dump them.

      2. TL -*

        Yeah, I have a friend who mothers and it drives me up the wall. I really like her and enjoy the time we spend together but man do I have to grit my teeth sometime. (Mind you, I don’t ditch her but every once in a while I have to remind myself of all her other wonderful qualities quite forcefully.)

    8. Anon Right Now*

      Thanks a lot, everyone! Your comments are really well-taken. I’ve never really thought about that “care-taking” or “parent” voice before, and can definitely see how that would drive people nuts! I’ll try to watch that in the future.

      That said, I realized last night that I’m just in a different place than the people. I just turned 32; the oldest of them just turned 28. I’m suddenly not feeling like spending every day drunk off my face, pounding tequila, when that’s their main goal in life. And that’s fine. I think I may be acting like a parent around them because I’ve out-grown them.

      A funny thing happened last night: I ignored the invitations from [3rd person in that group] to day-drink and play beer pong all night and went to another friend’s board game night instead. We talked about books! And politics! And religion in a civilized manner! It was intelligent! And fun! I’m not hungover today to the point of immobility, so now I’m going to go work on an art project! I wasn’t anybody’s parent because none of them were children! It’s probably a really good thing that they ditched me last week. It hurt A LOT at the time, but I have this new insight into how to restructure my life.

      1. Clever Name*

        Yay! I’m glad things worked out! Even if your friends had a point about you parenting them, dumping you was a really shitty thing to do.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Shitty and childish. They didn’t want to hang out with the voice of parental concern, so they just hid like children. Sounds like you’re better off with these other friends whose maturity level is more in sync with yours.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Time to move all those people into something on Facebook you can’t see. You don’t have to block them or unfriend (defriend?) them, just somewhere where they won’t show up on your feed.

        People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Looks like their season is over!

      3. ginger ale for all*

        Perhaps the third one is feeling bad about it and is trying to make amends. Suggest an outing like lunch and see how it goes. But definitely get rid of the two mean girls in your life.

        1. Anon Right Now*

          One of the mean girls is my housemate, so that’s going to take some delicacy. And yes, third one reached out to me immediately after and told me she didn’t realize that she was implicated in them saying and doing horrible stuff to me, and also didn’t agree with anything they said or did. Problem is, she’s a roommate of Plastic #1 (first perpetrator) and I’m roommate of Plastic #2 (Mini-skirt woman. However, I could go on and on and on and on about how she’s constantly parenting me, so it’s quid pro quo parenting crazy. I’m still going to work on mine.)

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, work on yours – not for her sake, but your own. And do yourself a favor and see if you can find a better living situation. But until that happens, you don’t have to be best buddies with your house mate. Cooperative and preferably cordial, but that’s it.

      4. TootsNYC*

        You may be finding yourself being more negative or parental w/ these people because they’re kind of immature in general. Or younger than you, and in a different place.

        I have to work to not get parental w/ my friends at church who are much younger than me, or in “rookie” stages in terms of career, etc.

        Once you’re hanging around people who think more like you, you may find that going away (if it’s there).

    9. Renny90*

      I went through the same thing in high school with people I thought were my friends. They always called me negative Nancy or the bearer of bad news because I didn’t want to get drunk every weekend or go along with their dumb pranks. At the time, I thought those nicknames were funny and endearing and in some strange way it made me feel like they liked me because they invested time in giving me a nickname. Then, I realized they never invited me to hang out after school ever and the energy always changed when I approached the group. I eventually ditched them. It’s much better to be by yourself then to be with “friends” who make you feel bad about being who you are.

  24. Alistair*

    So we need to sell some stuff. We’re not in any financial straits (though the money would be nice), we just need to get stuff out of our house!

    But… how? While I know we can wait until yard sale season, I think we can get more money online. But, I’ve heard Ebay is lousy for casual sellers, and I’m leery about (though not against) Craigslist.

    What I’d really like to find is a professional Ebay seller who can basically do all the work, and gets a cut of the money. I’ve looked a bit, but keep coming up empty, making me wonder if I need different search terms.

    So good commenters of AAM what are your suggestions? How do you sell online? What else should I be doing to get stuff out of my house???

    Oh, I should mention, I’m mostly looking to sell boys toys from the 80s, and my wife is talking about paring down some of her Star Wars collection. Get them out of my garage!

    P.S., there’s also the pool table, but I feel like that could be a thread all on its own. Any ideas there would still be awesome. Thanks!

    1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      Maybe see if there’s a for sale group on Facebook for your neighborhood.

      1. Trixie*

        This, and Craiglist. Downside of Ebay is most buyers ignore the “local buyers only” and unless you’re taking on shipping, not the audience you want. When I was selling huge, oversize mirrors, I had great luck on CL. Take good pictures, include details, spec non-negotiable, no delivery, etc.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        This, there are several good Facebook garage sale/buy-sell-trade groups in my city. If they are neighborhood-specific, see if you can join one for the more upscale part of town, as long as you’re willing to deliver/meet in that part of town, most of the time that’s fine.

    2. Brandy in TN*

      sign up for nextdoor dot com. Its a neighborhood based webpage. Its everywhere, just discovered my neighborhood. We have people posting girl scout cookie deliveries, criminal activity, bad roads, etc. But you can also sell stuff on it. Each neighborhood has a moderator. Im not affiliated at all, its just a neat webpage I found. Ive always said we need a neighborhood type Facebook page thats not facebook and someone invented it.

    3. Violet_04*

      Do you have a neighborhood Next Door site? We recently bought a curio cabinet from a neighbor who posted on the site. She also mentioned an online “yard sale” page on Facebook. Sorry, I’m notsure of the exact name. Or is there any way to post info at work?

    4. Sibley*

      Craigslist – meet in a parking lot next to the police station if you’re worried :)
      Facebook garage sale groups for your area.

    5. Thinking out loud*

      Try the VarageSale app. It’s like Craigslist, but it uses your Facebook profile, so it’s much less likely to be inhabited by axe murderers. Some locations seem to have more activity than others, so your mileage may vary – my town is not super active, but the one in the next town over from me is very active, so I buy from there.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My boss is totally into garage sales.
      (I have seen her in action at garage sales, she is awesome.)
      Her advice is to have the first garage sale of the season in your neighborhood. People are itchy- to get out of the house, to go shopping for deals and to just have a pleasant excuse to be outside. My boss feels that if you can get your stuff out there first you will do very well. Make sure you advertise it. And yes, you will be a little chilly, so plan for that too.

    7. Lamington*

      i have used craigslist successfully, but i try to screen people first and make sure they are serious. I make sure that my husband is there as well and i have them come during the day and place the items in tve garage so no one comes in.

    8. Dynamic Beige*

      If that StarWars stuff is in any way collectible, eBay for sure. You’ll get more money for it. Unless you know of a place that will buy that kind of stuff on consignment. Small stuff is easy to ship. Just one thing, buying things on eBay has taught me that everyone has a different idea of how the Post Office works. Be sure to pack whatever you sell extremely well, especially if it’s in any way fragile. I have been truly astonished by what some people consider a packing job and that they didn’t think it would be smashed to smithereens.

    9. Lillie Lane*

      There are places like iSold It, where you can get them to do all the work of listing. If you live in an urban area, it’s easier to find drop-off places like that.

      1. Alma*

        There are also stores in larger areas that specialize in ’70s TV memorabilia, or comic book themes, die cast cars, or lunch boxes – the more you can focus on target buyers, the better you’ll do. You are also dealing with a bunch of people who know each other which does away with the “an axe murderer is meeting me…”

        Collectors groups are listed in the newspaper once a week. There may be a list at your local library. Also searching FB for “X items” + “Your Town” should be a good way to reach those who are on the up-and-up.

        I’m preparing to do a serious downsize as well. People the age of my nieces and nephews (18 – 25) don’t carry around “stuff.” So I’m expecting to have to sell 3 sets of china, collections of pressed glass, etc. I really don’t want to deal with eBay… I’m considering a booth at an eclectic antiques and unusual stuff place.

        Has anyone had experience with selling like this? And then there are the books. What is a great program for scanning bar codes and ISBNs for PC?

        My first garage sale was my last – I had lots of great stuff and it all was left at the end of the day. Opened cosmetics, OTC meds and vitamins, and hair products (even deodorant! ) all sold. Ick.

        Pots, pans, linens, furniture – it is easier to give it to a non-profit and get a receipt for taxes.

    10. Alistair*

      Awesome everybody! Nextdoor.com, iSoldit and VarageSale are just the sort of things I’d never have stumbled onto myself. And collector groups are just the sort of folks I’d love to sell to. The notion of my old Transformers going to someone who will treasure them warms my geeky little heart.

    11. First Initial dot Last Name*

      Find an organization specialist with decluttering services, often they have some kind of resale magic up their sleeves. Their service fees may come out of the net from the sales. I don’t know where you are but I have friends in Seattle who do this kind of thing for a living.

  25. Gene*

    For those who talked up Brilliant Earth, thank you. Their customer service has been great after my wife told me the wrong ring size. And the ring is great.

  26. Grumpy bear*

    I have just started getting into basic, everyday makeup and I think I have sensitive skin. I end up getting itchy and around my eyebrows in particular end up quite red. Suggestions for products that work well but don’t irritate?

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I’m highly allergic to everything under the sun – Neutrogena, Clinique, and Bare Minerals are the only products that don’t bother me.

      1. Grumpy bear*

        I’m sorry, I don’t understand your comment. I haven’t done quite well at all, hence asking for advice.

    2. Observer*

      I second the brand choices. Also, see if there are any particular colors that create a problem. Sometimes there is something that is commonly used for a particular color that can be an irritant.

    3. Puffle*

      I also have super sensitive skin that gets really itchy when I wear most makeup. I stick with Clinique and The Body Shop products and generally those seem to be okay for me. I use the lighter Body Shop foundations (by which I mean less thick and heavy) and avoid powder and that works for me.

      I also make sure I apply eye cream and moisturiser before I put any makeup on and that seems to help too- maybe because it’s a layer of protection between my skin and the makeup? I find that a moisturising foundation or BB cream by itself just isn’t enough.

      NB I use Body Shop Vitamin E eye cream and Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion, if that helps- though obviously ymmv depending on your skin type.

    4. NicoleK*

      My suggestion would be to try and figure which product you’re allergic to. Is it the foundation, moisturizer, primer, concealer, loose powder, and etc.

    5. Clever Name*

      I have sensitive skin too, and I use Physician’s Formula powder foundation. It’s a drug store brand, but not every place carries it.

    6. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I have pretty sensitive skin and I’ve had great luck with IT Cosmetics. If it’s around your eyebrows, I would think one of your eye products? Maybe try going without eye makeup for a week or so until the itchiness clears up. Then add products back one at a time (maybe use just mascara for a week, then if the itchiness doesn’t come back, add in eyeshadow, etc) and see if you can narrow it down that way.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Best: Being included on the training schedule of one of my company’s newest trainees when I’m only a month into my new role myself. It was the AVP of my division’s idea, so that was kind of cool.

      Worst: See the panic attack I mentioned above. Ugh. I thought I was done with this mess.

    2. wildfirefly12*

      Best: Started a personal project that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time recording “let’s play” gaming videos. I’ve planned out a month of videos, have a handful recorded so far, and am thoroughly enjoying the process, now that I’ve got past my self-consciousness.

      Worst: I’ve had bronchitis the entire month of February. All twenty days of it so far and still not very improved.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        Go back to the doctor. Same thing happened to me – I was sick from xmas through the end of January. Turns out I’d coughed so much it irritated my lungs to the point that the irritation was causing me to cough more etc etc in an endless cycle. Dr prescribed an inhaler and a course of presnisone which cleared it up finally.

        1. wildfirefly12*

          First of all… love your name. :)

          I’ve been three times. (Doctors offices should have to give refunds at that point.) They did finally give me an inhaler and had me do a breathing treatment last weekend. Slowly improving since then. The weirdest part, is I don’t have much of a cough. Just pain in my chest when I do anything moderately physical or talk too much and the occasional cough (like less than a handful of times a day). Oh… and the general exhaustion, which thankfully has improved in the past week.

    3. danr*

      Worst: Last week the basement refrigerator stopped working. We can’t complain since it made it about 22 years. The worst part was losing some nice ice creams.
      Best: bought a new refrigerator on Thursday. We made sure it has more freezer space than the old one, since we have to replace all those neat ice creams. And more.

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      Best: I am home, home with all my stuff.

      Worst: behind on studying, major drama (see above), officially unemployed and lack of money and food.

    5. Elkay*

      Best: I took my youth group to a really good event yesterday.

      Worst: I have not quite a cold which is enough to make me feel crappy but not enough to be properly ill.

    6. mander*

      Best: Somehow I have become a specialist in drawing a particular kind of archaeological find, at least on the site I’m working on right now. I never thought of myself as having great drawing skills, but I guess the guy in charge of the drawing likes me, so for now I have a nice cushy job.

      Worst: I had to do a course on working in confined spaces (putting on a gas mask and escaping in an emergency) and I unexpectedly panicked during the practical bit and had a hard time getting out of the simulator. I’m not claustrophobic but I am large and awkward, and I got stuck in a sharp corner and ended up having to crawl through the whole thing rather than just backing up. I had to do this while holding my glasses in one hand and on a knee that has been really sore for the past month, so I was not happy.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Best: Planning a forthcoming weekend away.

        Worst: The UK referendum on EU membership has just been announced and nobody is sure what is going to happen to all of us who are UK nationals resident in the EU if the outcome is to leave.

        1. mander*

          I’m worried on behalf of my EU colleagues who are living here, as well as my relatives who live abroad. Very unsettling.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m nervous about this and I don’t even live there! But I have family/friends there and I don’t think it would be very good.

          Fingers crossed that everything works out.

    7. Sparkly Librarian*

      Best: My wife and I had a good homestudy visit (safe place for a child to sleep, no swimming pool full of broken glass and pit vipers) and started sharing our adoption outreach FB page. More than a hundred likes in 4 days, and people have been super-nice!

      Worst: We quarreled with our housemate, found out he has radically different philosophies than we do about race/racism/privilege/social justice, and a couple days later agreed that he would move out at the end of the month. It’s been pretty awkward, especially because we got along fine for the last six months (and the last couple years I’ve known him) and this was a big surprise.

    8. periwinkle*

      Good: Got a new tattoo of a green maneki neko (green = academic success). It’s adorable.
      Better: Had a lovely steak dinner for my birthday.
      Best: Celebrated our 15th anniversary!

      Worst: This was birthday #51. What happened? When did I become a middle-aged lady?

    9. Elizabeth West*

      WORST: I’m so tiiiiiired. I need to start exercising again. I’ve been so lazy and sloth-ish!

      BEST: At my skating lesson yesterday, I did one full revolution of my back spin CORRECTLY. Yay! Of course I couldn’t do it today, LOL.

    10. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Worst: My pet fish died

      Best: My bf took me on a lovely night out, and we planned our future a bit, and today, we saw a charming townhouse (with a for sale sign) and he and I both took pictures of it on our phones…..he also started researching water pumps in case we end up with another fish in the future. I can’t do the same type (too close to home) but I can do opposite gender or a chameleon-like color-changing fish….<:)

      Weird: My mom told me on Saturday she keeps praying for me at church to break up with bf because she wants me with someone better (in her eyes). I kind of cough-laughed-cough and she got annoyed and said I probably wouldn't realize she was right until she was too late…..

      Riiiight. Although, it jogged my mind out of the semi-down post-deceased fish state and made me laugh absurdedly hard in a dark humor sorta way.

      Also, I told my bf this, and how nmom sees me as her property. And that this could, in her warped view, extend to any grandkids as "her" property which I worried about. Bf straight up said if she pulled that stuff, he'd get a restraining order. (His mom and I are both attys). And he is quite straightforward.


      1. Ruffingit*

        I’m so sorry about your fish. It’s hard to lose a beloved pet. And sorry about your mom’s craziness too. Ever think about moving and leaving no forwarding address? She sounds exhausting.

    11. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Best: I have been sooo lazy this weekend, and it had has been great! I spent the weekend not doing a single thing that I didn’t want to do. So, I finished season one of The Flash, which ended on a huge cliffhanger. I drank wine and ate chocolate chips (inspired by a blog post from NDQ) out of the bag. I skipped church and it felt great to be ‘not doing’ something that I was ‘supposed’ to be doing.

      Worst: I found out this afternoon that my sister’s life partner passed away last night of a heart attack. He was only 45 years old. He had muscular dystrophy and was in a wheelchair, and they had recently moved in with his mother because he was starting to need more care than my sister could do on her own.

    12. Trixie*

      Best: Scheduled multiple appts with those shiny new insurance cards, playing major catch-up. Dentist first, replacing fillings next, plus wellness and ears.

      Worst: Feeling winded too easily these days. Thankful for warmer temps so i can get myself up early for walking before work. Better, find some hills to climb.

    13. Anon Right Now*

      WORST: See above-mentioned post about how my locally closest friends ditched me over Valentines/Galentines weekend.

      BEST: A ton of really good friends have stepped up for me this week (most of them unknowing that I had a terrible friend weekend but just wanting to hang out with me), and I’ve gotten a lot more done and been a much more positive person without these people in my life.

    14. Ruffingit*

      WORST: I was exhausted last week. It was like going through the motions and trying to keep my eyes open was a huge effort.

      BEST: Slept A LOT this weekend and feel 1000 times better.

    15. Kate R. Pillar*

      BEST: Late to the party, but just have to tell someone (besides my husband): First ever positive pregnancy test!
      WORST: Statistics on rates of miscarriage for women over 35.

      1. Carmen Sandiego JD*


        Re: pregnancy/age: My aunt had my cousin at 40ish, he’s perfectly healthy, and is a business consultant now. Also, my grandmother had kids up till early 40s, all healthy. So yay :)

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            Congratulations! I was born when my mother was 42, and I’m confident none of my health problems or poor life choices have had to do with her age. I wish you the best!

  27. Trixie*

    How much do pay people pay to have their taxes done? Mine are usually on the simple side (single income, no kids, no house, etc.) but more complicated this year with freelance work. A friend/associate I trust charges $80 to prepare taxes. I’m thinking it would be worth it this year just to get a handle on it. Also, he may be able to get me started on quarterly payments so I’m not playing catch up at the end.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m in the same situation as you, fairly simple taxes. I pay about $55 now that I am an established customer of my accountant, but I started out paying $95. It was worth it. She was able to point out some possible deductions I hadn’t thought about and I know it’s going to be done right. $80 is not bad at all, I say pay it just to see if you’re happy with the results. Sometimes letting someone else take care of all that paperwork is worth the payment.

    2. acmx*

      I think that’s a reasonable price especially if you’re doing freelance for the first time.

      I’ve paid around $300 twice but that was for when I had a couple of forms/situations I wasn’t sure about on filing correctly.

    3. Trixie*

      I was leaning towards it and now I’m decided. Plus I’m looking at an EIN so I think we can tackle 2-3 questions for next year while filing last year’s. Thanks everyone!

    4. Mando Diao*

      I have a normal full-time job plus a freelance gig that is kind enough to send me a 1099 form. I believe this year my TurboTax cost around $70 total (federal and state around $35 each). $80 for an in-person check is a great deal, especially if you don’t have 1099s for the freelance gigs.

    5. Clever Name*

      Married filing jointly with a kid, student loans and a house. Typical stuff. I pay $300 and it’s totally worth it for me. I used to get turbo tax, but I found filling it out was so stressful. My accountant will tell me things like, “oh, you don’t have to keep the receipts for that deduction as long as it’s less than this threshold”. Turbotax never gives nuanced advice like this. :)

    6. Windchime*

      I just pay around $40 for Turbo Tax and do it myself. I don’t have kids living at home and I don’t do anything like freelance, so it’s just normal old Federal Income Tax for one person. I do get to itemize because I own a home (well, the bank and I own it). I live in a state with no state income tax, so I don’t have to worry about that part of it.

    7. Dan*

      I’ve never paid anybody, but my tax life is not complicated.

      Heck, this year, I think I’m qualified to file the 1040ez. That one is trivial.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Since I have very easy taxes, I use FreeTaxUSA. It’s free for federal and state costs about $12. I did it when I had a 1099 and it wasn’t that hard even then. Now I’m waiting for my refund (which I need so hurry up!).

  28. Ruffingit*


    What have you read recently, what are your thoughts on it, and what are you reading now?

    1. Shell*

      I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth. Considering the hype and that it has movies made out of it, I…honestly wasn’t that impressed. The narrative and diction was fine but not memorable. There were several details where I was struggling to suspend my disbelief, such as how “rare” it is to have people who gravitate toward multiple factions, and how mind control works in universe (it doesn’t). The main characters seemed very special/awesome but I don’t feel like their awesomeness was justified/built up adequately in the text.

      I’m going to read the second book (will probably start tonight/tomorrow), but I’m harbouring doubts.

      1. Violet_04*

        I agree. In the genre of YA dystopian novels, I think there are better ones. The second one was okay. There were a lot of characters and I found it a bit difficult to keep everyone straight. I liked the movies better.

        1. Come On Eileen*

          Have either of you read The Girl With All The Gifts? It was one of my favorites in this genre.

          1. Felicia*

            I read The Girl With All The Gifts for a book club that I’m in, and I hated it. Most people in my book club at least liked it though.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              Yeah…my book club loved it too. I was really bothered by its serious need for an editor and a proofreader.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      I recently finished a novella called Conjure Woman’s Cat by Malcolm R. Campbell and really liked it. It was told from the cat’s point of view, which I thought was going to be a hokey gimmick, but somehow it worked.

      I also finished Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff, and liked it a lot until the end. It was a very interesting look into Dissociative Identity Disorder.

    3. Random Citizen*

      I found a copy of David McCullough’s biography of John Adams and I am madly in love with it. I sat down to just look at the first couple pages the day I got it and finally looked up about 100 pages later to realize I should probably eat supper.

        1. Random Citizen*

          I’m especially delighted because I found it for $1.50 at my library bookstore and now own it so I can read it many times! Happiness. :)

      1. hermit crab*

        YES and then after you read it, you must watch the miniseries with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, if you haven’t already.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith.

      It’s awesome! Over 300 pages in and I still don’t know who the killer is.

      1. Miki*

        The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov, translated by Andrew Bromfield; it’s been a long time since I read Russian fiction, and the title caught my eye on the new books shelves (working in acquisition department has its perks).
        The first chapter reminded me on Chekhov, but further I go I am realizing it’s very much different but interesting read. (2/3 done)

    5. bassclefchick*

      I just finished up James Patterson’s Confessions series. It’s technically a YA series, but really good. The main character is Tandy Angel and it’s a thriller series. Loved it!

      I also just finished The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas. I believe it was recommended here, actually! Liked it, but thought some of his conclusions were a bit off.

      I just started reading Game of Thrones. I’ve seen all 5 seasons of the show and thought I’d read the books because there are always things in the books that don’t make it into the show. I’m amazed at how closely the showrunners have followed the book!

    6. katamia*

      I’d been reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy on and off since January of last year (it’s more than 1300 pages, and I read a bunch of other things in between) and finally finished it last week, but it was really disappointing. All those pages, and yet a lot of subplots weren’t really resolved.

      I might reread House of Leaves next. I don’t know. I haven’t been happy with a lot of the books I’ve read recently, so I’ll probably wind up trying a few things out.

      1. moss*

        I wrote an outraged letter to Mr. Seth about the ending of A Suitable Boy and he wrote a polite response back.

    7. Clever Name*

      The Enigma:a biography of Alan Turing. The movie The Imitation Game was based on this book. It’s written by a mathematician and it’s actually well-written. It does go into math theory of the time quite a bit, but I’m still enjoying it.

    8. Maya Elena*

      I’m working through “The Name of the Wind”. It’s fantasy, exquisitely written.
      I have also been continuously cycling through “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors” – it’s hilarious, and you learn much about medicine and the US Army in the 1950s.

    9. MsChandandlerBong*

      I’m always reading something. I just finished a book called “The Blissfully Dead” by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. I enjoyed it (although I enjoy any kind of book about serial killers/murders/mysteries; my husband said he’s sort of afraid me). Before that, I read Leah Remini’s “Troublemaker.” I found it fascinating, especially her descriptions of the way Scientology leaders treated members.

    10. Sparkly Librarian*

      My copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me finally came in! There is a hold request queue of 150+ so I ought to get started on it. (But I’m really enjoying the Stephen King novel I’m already into.)

    11. LCL*

      The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield. The first book that I’ve read that features an ensemble cast of female characters where I could identify with aspects of most of them. Red Mabel was my favorite. Reviewers compared it to ‘Where’d you go, Bernadette’ and the writing of Richard Russo. It’s more like Bernadette, but with better character development. I am not a fan of Russo; I tried two of his books on recommendations here and couldn’t get through them.

    12. Stephanie*

      Last thing I “read” (listened to on audiobook…) was Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. It was amusing and funny, but nothing earth shattering.

      Now reading The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck.

    13. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am reading both The Martian and Brooklyn, which weirdly means I’m reading the books that two recent movies were based on, but in the second case it wasn’t deliberate (and I haven’t seen the second movie). I’m liking both.

    14. Leeza*

      The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden, by Jonas Jonasson. He also wrote The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. It’s funny, I loved both books, but both of them took me some time to get into. Ended up really enjoying them, tho.

    15. Rebecca*

      Maybe a minor spoiler for “Still Alice”…

      I’m reading via audio books! I discovered it by accident, as I try to walk at least 2 hours per day for exercise, an hour randomly during the work day plus 1 hour in the evenings, or 2 plus hours on each weekend day. I love my local radio station, because they play classic rock from the 1970’s on, but audio books have given me something to look forward to. I just finished “Still Alice”, then “Mr. Mercedes” (I’m a huge Stephen King fan), and I’m listening to “Revival” right now. I’m waiting somewhat impatiently for “Finders Keepers” to be available through my eBranch2Go account.

      Thoughts: “Still Alice” was really thought provoking, and hard for me to listen to as 2 of my Aunts and my mother in law passed away with dementia.

      “Mr. Mercedes” I loved the narrator, and how the characters were fleshed out in the book, and I am pretty attached to K. William Hodges, Det. Ret.

      “Revival” was not at all what I expected, in a good way. What a great story so far (I’m on chapter 10).

      I got a log in code for eBranch2Go from my local library, and I signed up for Audible.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        That’s what I love about audiobooks, you can do two things at once! I was listening to “How to Talk like TED” while shovelling the driveway this week (it’s about TED speakers).

      2. Sparkly Librarian*

        The Det.-Ret. comes back in Finders Keepers, which you should also read. (I came across ’em in the wrong order, so I’m now reading Mr. Mercedes and filling in the backstory.) Also, have you read the newest short story collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams?

    16. Felicia*

      Recently read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and I loved it. It’s everything I always wished from but never got from “kids go to magic school and fight evil for some reason” books. And it’s very different from other books in that genre, which was refreshing, and much more mature than I expected. Also hopefully not spoiling anything but the end made me really really happy , and it’s about time a book could end like that.

      Though if anyone has read Fangirl , also by Rainbow Rowell, that would either make Carry On weird for you, or even better. For me it made it even better, but i can see how it could be weird.

    17. hermit crab*

      I’m reading my way through the Jack Reacher series. My mom is a huge fan but I wasn’t interested until I read an interview with Lee Child (the author), where he talked about how he was disappointed by all those brilliant-but-troubled detectives and wanted a character who actually did things right for once. Somebody mentioned “competency porn” here recently w/r/t MacGyver and The Martian, and Jack Reacher is kind of like that but for solving mysteries.

      I will note, though, that the books involve a LOT of coffee drinking, and I’m really suggestible so my coffee intake probably triples whenever I am reading one!

    18. acmx*

      I recently read Fast Into the Night about a woman who completed Iditarod. Not bad but I would have liked more on the dogs and/or race itself and not on how she met her husband. But it’s a nice, quick read.
      And I read Tower of Thorns. Easy fantasy read.

      I’m currently reading 3 books: The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie, Dragons Wild and also Death by Water – still. I’ve been trying to get through the latter all year. I’d have given up if I hadn’t bought the book.

    19. Merry and Bright*

      I’m reading “Letters to Alice” by Fay Weldon. I read it first back in the 1990s and just found it again while helping to tidy my parents’ loft. I am enjoying it though it helps to be a Jane Austen junkie (which I am).

    20. catsAreCool*

      I’m re-reading “Live right and find happiness (although beer is much faster!) by Dave Barry. I really enjoy his humor.

    21. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and finding it gripping right now. Its the kind of sci fi I like that is more focused on ideas than technology.

      I’m also listening to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander as an audiobook during my commute right now. The beginning was a bit of a slog since I don’t need convincing that it’s important (in the intro) and I have a decent background in US history up to the Civil Rights era (first chapter), but now that chapter 2 is into more detail about the criminal justice system itself, I’m learning more. I’m not good at maintaining attention while listening, though, so I often have to skip back a track to hear what I missed.

    22. LizB*

      I just finished Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, which I enjoyed a lot. Alien invasion/introduction story set in Lagos, Nigeria, with a really interesting set of characters and cultural context.

      Now working on Shadows Linger, the second novel in the Black Company series by Glen Cook. I really like it; it’s fast-paced, with sparse narration and some very cool worldbuilding elements. This series seems like it’s going to be great for times when I just want something fun to read.

  29. Come On Eileen*

    Online Dating at 41: tell me its worth it. I’ve only been doing it one week so far, but ugh — not a lot of prospects so far. I’m on eHarmony and Match. Are there others that are worth checking out?

    1. Violet_04*

      No experience myself, but the blogger at Capitol Hill Style recently posted about finding her boyfriend on Tinder.

    2. acmx*

      I don’t online date but I have friends who do/did. One used plenty of fish and the other used eharmony (pretty sure that’s where she met her husband [and not match]).

    3. Female-type Person*

      It certainly worked for me and I was almost 10 years older than you are; I ended up with a super nice husband! I had low expectations, and it honestly never occurred to me that it would actually *work*, I just wanted social practice on strangers. And maybe some very funny “bad date” stories. Advice: flattering but not too flattering current pictures (you want to under promise and under perform) and total honesty. Guys my age who were looking for 25 year old babes could simply reject me on the front end and not hurt my feelings, and how efficient. And, consider shorter-than-average guys. They are at a big disadvantage with online dating, and it isn’t really fair–it isn’t something they can fix.

    4. Maya Elena*

      I have had very good luck on OK Cupid! I’ve had a few strange dates, a few alright ones, and an absolute keeper.
      It is especially good if you do not have many connections in your are or few other sources of suitable prospective dates (from classes, dance groups, friends’ giant potlucks, etc.). I would use it bearing the following in mind. (Note – the following advice is for women seeking men on OKCupid, since I have no other relevant experience):
      -It is a woman’s market on OK Cupid.
      -OKCupid’s “OKTrends” blog has interesting posts about profile content and profile photos that may be useful if you are interested in “optimizing” your profile somehow.
      -When answering the various questions, answer truthfully, even if you think your answer will put people off (topics include politics, appearance preferences, religion, and sexual peculiarities). You want to narrow down the field to someone you would actually be comfortable seeing long-term (if that’s what you’re looking for, of course).
      Also, there used to be an amusing dating site called “Alikewise”, which matched people based on the books they liked, but its usefulness is very location-dependent.

    5. Jubilance*

      YMMV but I met my husband on Twitter! I think the key is wading through all the noise and keeping an open mind to finding the person you want. Best of luck!

    6. Dynamic Beige*

      You might want to see if there’s a Meetup group in your area for doing social stuff in your age bracket. Online dating will expose you to people you wouldn’t normally meet in your everyday life, but if it’s all you’re relying on to find dates, you may find it’s not as fun as you might have hoped it would be. Also, it’s only been a week! It’s too early for you to be so fed up with it you need to take a break!

    7. Soupspoon McGee*

      I met my now-partner on OK-Cupid. I was 40. I like that site because I could play with criteria and use their quizzes/ratings to find someone who aligned with the things I value most. I also met some stinkers, but that made for good stories later (like the guy who complained nonstop about everything; at 7 pm I left, saying I had to get up early for work).

  30. SL #2*

    I recently got into collecting Funko Pop vinyl dolls! (They’re the ones with really big heads and tiny bodies and basically every pop culture phenomenon these days has a line.) Anyone else into them? I got my first one about a month ago (Poe from Star Wars) and now I have 3, with 3 more planned purchases or on their way.

    1. bassclefchick*

      I really want Jamie Fraser from Outlander! And probably Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. I think they’re kinda creepy and kinda cool.

    2. Mando Diao*

      I think they’re so fun! It’s neat to have memorabilia from a bunch of different shows/movies but have them all sort of match.

      1. SL #2*

        Yes! I’m really into Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (especially the Captain America trilogy) so I’m slowly building up my collections of those.

    3. Elsajeni*

      I’m not super into them, but I have a few, because they make so many that for some media they’re the only toy/collectible you can get! I have a Robby the Robot, from the movie Forbidden Planet, and an Iron Giant. They hang out on my desk and go on robot bro adventures together.

    4. LCL*

      I’ve been resisting so far, because I can’t justify collecting yet more crap, but Damn! I think I will buy the Frankenfurter one.
      If you don’t mind wasting more time on line, the Mary Sue had a post a few months back that featured a home-crafted Furiosa that was built on a funkopop. I’m too overcome by post-skiing syndrome to search for it.

      1. SL #2*

        Hah, I’m becoming a regular on the Funko Pop subreddit; they’re a pretty nice bunch and there’s always some cool photos of collections/hauls/custom pops.